The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden
P. O. Box 3793
Minneapolis MN 55403

The Lilies of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Note: You can find more photos and information on each plant mentioned here by accessing the individual plant pages in the "Plant List" menu or using the links in the text. The introduction date to the Garden is given in the text.

Six plants known as lilies are present in the Garden plus one called a lily but really in the Iris family. Two others are historical. We cover them all here.

Michigan Lily

Among the lilies of the genus Lilium are those commonly called "Turk's-cap" so named for the form created by the petals when in the fully recurved position touching or almost touching each other and the flower stem. The flowers are all pendant in large arrays. The name is correctly assigned to Lilium superbum which has been introduced into Minnesota for garden planting and is native to a number of states in the Southeast. Eloise Butler noted its seedpods in the Garden in September 1908 and planted more the same year, obtained from a Pennsylvania Nursery. As this was the first time it appears in her log, why was this non-native in the Garden? Had it been planted prior in Wirth Park and seeds ended up in the Garden? OR did she misidentify the seed pod and instead it was our native Michigan Lily, L. michiganense?

We know for certain from her log that years later Curator Martha Crone planted the Michigan Lily. Today both exist in the Upland part of the Garden. Both form tall stems with multiple flower heads. The links to the identification pages will give you the key details of difference but the most reliable identification key it the green star at the base of the petals in the Turk's-cap and the lack of the star in the Michigan.

A third lily with this form that was brought into the area for ornamental purposes is the Tiger Lily (L. lancifolium), which has never been in the Garden and is best identified by the small bubils that form in the leaf axils.

Michigan lily
Michigan Lily
Lilium michiganense
lacks the green star at the petal base.
Turk's Cap Lily
Turk's-cap Lily
Lilium superbum
shows the green star at the petal base.

Below: Former Gardener Cary George with a stand of Turk's-cap lilies, ca. 2000. Friends photo.

Cary George with a large turk's-cap lily

The next lily is the Canada Lily, L. canadenses where the petals do not fully recurve and the outer color of the petals is yellow with reddish tints. It also has pendant flowers in a large array. It is not native to the state but to states farther east and to Canada. Eloise introduced it in 1910 and she and Martha Crone planted it a number of times.

Canada Lily

Of our state's two native lilies we now come to the Wood Lily, L. philadelphicum, which has the widest range of any North American lily. Unlike those already mentioned, the flowers are held upright in the manner of an asiatic lily, and only one to three per stem. Unlike the asiatics, the petal bases are very long and clawed, leaving some space between them. It arrived in the Garden in 1909 and is found in most counties of Minnesota except 18 in the southwest and south central. The photo below is from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on June 22, 1949.

Wood lily

After the Upland Garden was established in 1944, Martha Crone brought in two other no-native lilies, the Carolina Lily, Lilium michauxii, and Gray's Lily, Lilium carolinanum. Even though she planted them several times, they were not successful and after they died out, later Curators have not replanted them as they are not native.

We now move out of the Lilium genus and into Hemerocallis, the Day Lilies, and come to two lilies that can be considered decorative or invasive. The first is the Yellow Day Lily, H. lilioasphodelus. Martha Crone introduced it in 1949 in the new Upland Garden. The flowers are trumpet shaped and fragrant. The second is more well known from roadside displays, the Orange Day Lily, sometimes called the Ditch Lily, H. fulva. The flowers are more upright, not fragrant, sometimes doubled, and the plant is a super spreader. Plant with caution. The underground tubers can send out underground runners to create new plants feet away from the parent. It was also a Crone introduction, in 1947.

Yellow Day lily Orange Day Lily

The final entry is the Blackberry Lily or Leopard Flower, Belamcanda chinensis, not a lily at all but a member of the Iris family, as the leaves tell you. These lily-like flowers are upright, borne in multiple clusters, but only one per cluster opens at a time. It may have arrived in the Garden as a gift. It is listed on the 1986 plant census and has stayed around.

Blackberry Lily


The six flower petals of the true lilies are actually composed on 3 petals and 3 sepals which usually have the same color and shape and are thus referred to as tepals. The leaves of some are in whorls and in others alternate on the stem with the floral array at the top. The day liles differ by having strap-like leaves that rise from the base with the flower stem leafless, but the flower parts are the same as the true lilies. In both there are 6 stamens and a 3-part ovary which produces a 3-chambered seed capsule.

Eloise Butler was a key advocate of forming the Garden in 1907 and was appointed Curator in 1911. After her death in 1933, Martha Crone became Curator until 1959.