Lily of the Field

Lily of the field, or Lilium chalcedonicum as categorized by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in Species Plantarum (The Species of Plants) in 1753, is a flower, also known as the scarlet martagon, native to Greece and Albania. It is a firm- textured flower that is rare to find in personal landscapes or floral shops, despite its ease of cultivation and its beauty. Its shape resembles a turban, and it is a brilliant red color.

Image showing Lily of the Field in her natural environment

The lily of the field is a hardy flower that has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. It grows in temperate climates and is an easy plant to grow in a pot, as long as the bulbs are planted just after the flower blooms in soil that drains well. Too much accumulated water will not allow the plant to prosper.

Name’s Origin, Myths, and Meaning of the Lily

It is believed that the lily of the field derives its name from the biblical New Testament verse of Matthew 6:28, which reads, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” Jesus asserted that just as God takes care of the smallest living things, such as the lilies of the field, he will take care of his people as well.

The first images of the lily were discovered in drawings on the Mediterranean island of Crete that are believed to date back to 1580 BCE. One of the first written descriptions of the lily dates to the Middle Ages. Translated, the description reads “the plant flowers until late autumn and there are three types, red, yellow, and purple.” The lily has been a part of mythology as well. The ancient Greeks, for instance, called the lily leiron, and believed it sprouted from the milk of the queen of the gods Hera, a symbol of purity. In Greek poetry, the lily symbolized tenderness and was referred to as “the voice of the muses.”

Lilies are the May birth flower and the flower representing the 30th wedding anniversary. Lilies are associated with the virtues of purity, friendship, devotion, humility, prosperity, and wealth. They also are associated with funerals, symbolizing a restored innocence to the soul after death. Feng shui enthusiasts, believers in the ancient Chinese system of aesthetics and science, consider the lily to be the emblem of summer and its abundance.

Medicinal Purposes

The lily has been used as a remedy for several illnesses and ailments. It has been used as an antitoxin and a cure for depression. It has been believed to be a lucky charm and to avert the power of the evil eye.

Rosemarie Boucher Leenerts

Further Reading

“Lilium chalcedonicum (Heldreichii Lily).” Backyard Gardener. http://www (accessed July 7, 2012).

“Lily.” Flowers & Plants Association. (accessed 22 February 2011).

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