Monday, April 2, 2012

The History of the Easter Lily

Ever wonder when or why the Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) became associated with Easter?

Ryukyu Islands of Japan
Their story starts in Japan. They are native to the Ryukyu islands of southern Japan and discovered in 1777 by plant explorer Carl Peter Thunberg who sent them to England in 1819.

Sailors and missionaries carried them in 1853 to Bermuda where they became a a large commercial crop in the 1800s until a virus destroyed the crop. Thus they are also known as the Bermuda Lily.

Production was then moved to Japan where, until World War II, it thrived.

During Word War I, a soldier from Oregon brought a suitcase-full to the U.S. During the WWII, bulbs were scarce, but the demand continued increasing their value. U.S. producers who had been growing them as a hobby now had "White Gold."

Now the area along the California-Oregon border is known as the "Easter Lily Capital of the World" producing 95% of all the bulbs grown in the world for the Easter lily market - predominantly for the U.S.

Easter lilies naturally bloom in the summer, so how did they become a symbol of Easter?

Notice the difference between the
Madonna lily (Lilium candidum)
and the Bermuda/Easter lily >>>
Legend has it that a lily grew from the ground where Jesus cried drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane the night after the Last Supper before He was arrested, tried and crucified. That lily was probably what's known as the "Madonna lily" (Lilium candidum) a symbol of purity. The Madonna Lily has a shorter "trumpet" flower than the Bermuda lily.

Bermuda/Easter lily with the longer trumpet reflected
in the botanical name: Lilum longiflorum
In the 1880s, a visitor to Bermuda brought the Bermuda lily back home to Philadelphia where a local nurseryman, William Harris, forced them into spring bloom and selling them to florists.

Tricking a summer flower to bloom for Easter isn't easy especially when the date for Easter varies each year - from March 22 - to April 25. Growers use temperature to speed up or down the crop. Greenhouse growers receive the bulbs in late fall. They are potted and placed in non-freezing cool temperatures. The bulbs need 1000 hours of moist cold in order to bloom.

Selecting Lilies

When shopping for a lily, look for a plant with flowers in various states of bloom - buds to open or partially open flowers. Leaves should be a dense, rich green and extend all the way from the soil line to the top. The plant should be 2 times as high as the pot.

Lily Care

At home, keep your lily far from drafts and heating sources like appliances & air ducts. Indirect, bright light is best. Water only when soil feels dry and don't over water. To prolong the blooms, cut the yellow pollen pods from the center. If you get the pollen on fabric, don't rub it. Remove it with sticky tape.

Keep the lilies away from cats as they like to chew on leaves and can cause kidney failure in cats. Call your vet if you think your cat has eaten a leaf.

If you live in Lake Powell or Page, AZ, stop by A Treasured Occasion for your fresh Easter lilies.

By Giselle Aguiar for A Treasured Occasion

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I had no idea that lillies came from Japan. How cool!