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  • Greg Pokouski

A Lily may not be a Lily

At our last club meeting, Robin discussed a calla during the Specimen Display segment. She reminded us that it is a calla, not a calla lily.

A couple days later a new club member phoned from Lowe’s to say that she was looking at plants labeled “calla lily.” She asked if she needed to call the police, and I replied, “yes!”

The calla, Zantedeschia aethiopica , may commonly be known as calla lily and arum lily, but is in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa. It is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial. 

True lilies, Lilium , are herbaceous plants growing from bulbs in the family Liliaceae. Most species are native to the Northern Hemisphere. Many other plants have “lily” in their common names, but do not belong to the same genus and are therefore not true lilies. Often these have only superficial resemblance to the true lily. They include water lily, fire lily, lily of the Nile, trout lily, kaffir lily, cobra lily, lily of the valley, daylily, ginger lily, Amazon lily, leek lily, Peruvian lily and more. Easter lilies, Lilium longiflorum, are true lilies.

The Canna , the only flowering plant in the family Cannaceae, is sometimes called canna lily. They are native to the tropics and grow from rhizomes.  So be aware when viewing or discussing “lilies” that they may not be all in the family. And know the difference when you are entering flowers in a flower show.


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