The Wood Lily, lilium philadelphicum, starts emerging in mid-June. It provides a wonderful explosion of orange in the seas of green grasses. In addition to orange, it can be darker red or brighter orange, or have variable spots. There is normally just 1 flower, but there can be clusters of 2 or rarely, 3.
On any late June/early July hikes in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, the lilies will be out. The best “groves” are in the meadows around Middle Lake in Bow Valley Provincial Park, but they are widely distributed through K-Country.
Where they are found
Wood Lilies are obviously native. Their range extends across to Eastern Canada (they are the provincial flower of Saskatchewan), and south down the eastern seaboard of the USA. A slightly different variant with more red flowers is found through the central USA east of the Rockies. However, it is considered Threatened in Kentucky and Ohio, of Special Concern or Vulnerable in Rhode Island and New York, and Endangered in Tennessee, Maryland and New Mexico.
Don’t pick them!!!
The problem with their survival is mostly us. This is a pretty flower, but pick it, and the entire plant dies. That’s because the plant’s energy is generated almost entirely from the flower or leaves. Picking the flower removes the plant’s sole energy source, and it’s bye-bye to the root.
The root bulb, incidentally, is edible. It was used by First Nations people for food and medicine. The pollen is also edible and was dusted on food to add flavour. Wood Lilies also cross-pollinate in order to seed. A lone wood lily is unlikely to spread, though they can live for decades so long as they are not picked or broken. It’s illegal to pick flowers in Parks anyway. Technically, you need a permit to collect flowers on Public land. Leave flowers for the next people to see.
Rare yellow varieties
In 2020, we were exceptionally fortunate to find a VERY rare pure yellow variant (Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum forma immaculata) in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. There are less than 10 found in the entire province annually. They were not known to exist anywhere at all prior to 1934. Despite the Wood Lily being the official provincial flower of Saskatchewan, the first yellow one wasn’t found there until 1982.
See more of the beautiful flowers of Kananaskis Country here!