Lilium L.

Lilium is a genus of ca. 100-200 species, depending on species delimitation. Most are confined to the northern hemisphere but some extend southwards to tropical Asia. Three taxa, most of debated residence status, have been recorded in Belgium. Many more are in cultivation as ornamentals and could occur as escapes (see Matthews 1986 and Jäger & al. 2008 for useful accounts for the genus in cultivation in Europe).

Lilium bulbiferum L. subsp. croceum (Chaix) Arcang. is a very rare species of arable land (especially Secale cereale fields), usually claimed as a native but possibly extinct by now as such. The latest record in an arable field dates back to 1970 (Turnhout) and possibly rather represented a garden escape (Berten 2006). At present one population survives in calcareous grassland in Lanaye (Montagne Saint-Pierre) (see Gathoye 1993); its origin is uncertain but several other species have been introduced on purpose at this location.
Lilium candidum L. was cited from a dump in Jamioulx in the 1950’s (Lebeau 1954) but voucher specimens seem to be absent. Some of the unidentified recently observed Lilium plants in Belgium may also belong to this species or hybrids of it. It shares the alternate leaves with L. bulbiferum and L. xhollandicum but is distinguished by its whitish flowers and wider leaves that emerge already in autumn.

Interesting additional information on the genus Lilium (and Liliaceae in general) is widely available on the internet, for instance:

• the Pacific Bulb Society website:
• The Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group website:

1 Flowers pendent, pink to dark purplish-red, spotted. Perianth segments strongly recurved, 25-35 mm long. Median leaves usually in whorls === Lilium martagon
Flowers erect, orange or bright red. Perianth segments erect or patent, never recurved, 55-85 mm long. Median leaves alternate, never in whorls === 2

2 Leaves usually 3 veined, very numerous. Plant 70-130 cm tall, with numerous flowers === L. xhollandicum
Leaves 3-9 veined. Plant often smaller, with few flowers (native) === L. bulbiferum subsp. croceum


Berten B. (2006) Lilium bulbiferum. In: Van Landuyt W., Hoste I., Vanhecke L., Van den Bremt P., Vercruysse W. & De Beer D., Atlas van de Flora van Vlaanderen en het Brussels Gewest. Instituut voor natuur- en bosonderzoek, Nationale Plantentuin van België en Flo.Wer: 541.

Elwes H.J. (1877-80) A monograph of the genus Lilium. Parts 1-7. [available online at:]

Gathoye J.-L. (1993) Le lis safrané (Lilium bulbiferum subsp. croceum) présent depuis plus de 10 ans dans la réserve naturelle de la montagne Saint-Pierre (Belgique, province de Liège). Nat. Mosana 46(2): 72-78.

Grove A. & Cotton A.D. (1933-40) A Supplement to Elwes' Monograph of Lilium parts 1-7.

Jäger E.J., Ebel F., Hanelt P. & Müller G. (eds.) (2008) Rothmaler Band 5. Exkursionsflora von Deutschland. Krautige Zier- und Nutzpflanzen. Springer Verlag, Berlin: 880 p.

Lebeau J. (1954) Plantes trouvées en 1952 et 1953 au terrain d’immondices de la Ville de Charleroi à Jamioulx, au cours d’une cinquantaine de promenades. Nat. Mosana 6: 59-61.

Lee J.S. & Roh M.S. (eds.) (1996) International symposium on the genus Lilium. Taejon, Korea, August 28-September 1, 1994. Acta Horticulturae 414, The Hague: International Society for Horticultural Science: 302 p.

Matthews V.A. (1980) Lilium. In: Tutin T.G. & al. (eds.), Flora Europaea, vol. 5. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 34-35.

Matthews V.A. (1986) Lilium. In: Walters S.M. & al. (eds.), The European Garden Flora, vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 193-206.

Mitchell A. (2009) Lilies and Related Plants 2009-2010. The Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group: 134 p. [available online at:]

Mitchell A. (2011) Lilies and Related Plants 2011-2012. The Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group: 124 p. [available online at:]

Mitchell A. (2013) Lilies and Related Plants 2013-2014. The Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group: 130 p. [available online at:]

Mitchell A. (2015) Lilies and Related Plants 2015-2016. The Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group: 130 p. [available online at:]

Pelkonen V.-P. & Pirttilä A.-M. (2012) Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Genus Lilium. Floriculture and Ornamental Biotechnology 6: 1-8. [available online at:]

Rønsted N., Law S., Thornton H., Fay M.F. & Chase M.W. (2005) Molecular phylogenetic evidence for the monophyly of Fritillaria and Lilium (Liliaceae; Liliales) and the infrageneric classification of Fritillaria. Molec. Phylogenet. Evol. 35: 509-527. [available online at:

Stearn W.R. (1969) European species of lillies, a lily group discussion. Lily Year-Book 1969: 9-104.

Synge P.M. (1980) Lilies. A revision of Elwes’ monograph of the genus Lilium and its supplements. New York: 276 p.

Turrill W.B. (1960) Second Supplement to Elwe's Monograph of Lilium, Part 8.

Turrill W.B. (1962) Second Supplement to Elwe's Monograph of Lilium, Part 9.

Withers R.M. (1997) The classification of Liliums. Quart. Bull. N. Amer. Lily Soc. 51(2): 4-10.

Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith