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Brightfield Digital Image Gallery

Lily Flower Bud

Lilies, the aristocrats of the flower garden, are herbaceous flowering plants native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The name "lily" is most frequently applied to the 80-100 species belonging to the genus Lilium, of the family Liliaceae, and is derived from the Greek word leirion and the Roman term lilium, for the fabulous flowers.

View a low magnification image of the lily flower bud.

The lily family, as monocot (one seed leaf) angiosperms (flowering plants), comprises more than 250 genera and about 4,000 species of mostly herbaceous flowering plants, many with showy flowers, such as tulips and hyacinths. They are among the oldest cultivated plants, used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes as well as being prized garden ornamentals. The bulb of the Madonna lily was cultivated as a source of an ointment by inhabitants of Asia Minor as early as 2,000 BC. Other members of the lily family -- garlic, onions, chives, shallots, leeks, and asparagus -- are better known for their culinary applications, and were used as food by prehistoric humans.

The lily flower has held significance for thousands of years to various civilizations, serving usually as a symbol of fertility and rebirth, but also as a symbol of innocence. Brides in ancient Greece and Rome wore crowns of lilies at their weddings to symbolize purity, which is a tradition that continues today with lily-filled bridal bouquets. For some, planting lilies in a garden is believed to protect it from ghosts and evil spirits. Solomon's seal, representing the union of body and soul as a mystic icon of two interlocking triangles forming a six-pointed star, has medicinal value, but is also employed by some cultures as an amulet to ward off fever and other diseases.

Most members of the lily family are herb-like and are characterized by bulbs, or enlarged underground storage organs, which give rise to fleshy stems and erect narrow grass-like leaves. For commercially important varieties such as the Easter lily, lily bud meters are utilized by horticulturists to predict the number of days before flowering and to indicate storage temperatures and critical shipping times. The bisexual lily buds, typifying monocot flowers, usually exhibit three sepals, three petals, and six stamens, each bearing a bilobed anther with four pollen sacs. In addition, a single central pistil leading to an ovary, with typically six ovules, is enclosed by three fused carpals. Although sexual reproduction by seed is possible, many cultivars are grown via asexual bulbs to ensure enough energy for flowering.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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