Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lilies and their Kin

Ah yes, my one-hundredth Note from Halibut Point, and we take up flowers. Eye-catching, alluring flowers.
Why do we notice flowers? Perhaps for the same reason that their pollinators do, as recruits into the plant's scheme for increasing its own kind. If a plant gets our attention we're more likely to help it along. There may be a nutritional benefit for us in return.
Or it may be coincidental.
It could also be that flowers exemplify beauty, an intangible woven into our existence to induce delight, reverence, and sanity to our occupation of the planet.
Flowers come forth as the first stage of seed production for angiosperms, that vast domain of plants which, unlike the conifers seen in the last essay, enhance their reproductive success by encasing their seeds within fruit structures. All fertile flowers are capable of developing into fruit structures.

Wood lily, Halibut Point
Botanists recognize a great divergence in the world of flowering plants between monocotyledons and dicotyledon. In their embryonic stage monocots develop from a single leaf while dicots develop from a pair of leaves, setting distinctive growth patterns that make plants fairly recognizable as belonging to one group or the other. Grasses and banana trees fall within the monocots. So do lilies.
Wood lily, Lilium philadelphicum
During July a few favored spots on the moors of Halibut Point sparkle with the inflorescence of wood lilies in a red-orange quite bolder than the common day lilies. Day lilies are neither native nor true lilies but hemerocallis which, though also monocots, are more closely related to orchids than to lilies.
Trout lily, Erythronium americanum
Earlier in the spring trout lilies carpet certain wooded areas. They rise from bulbs that properly place them within the family Liliacea.
Canada mayflower, Maianthemum canadense
Trout lilies easily associate with the ground cover Canada mayflower. Mayflowers have cousinly ties to lilies.
Sessile-leaved bellwort, Uvularia sessilifolia
Bellwort occupies another branch of  the order Liliales.
Hairy Solomon's-seal, Polygonatum pubescens
You can see its flowers' resemblance to Solomon's-seal, which has similar habitat preferences. Note also that the leaf veins of  most monocots run parallel to the leaf edge giving them a distinctly different 'look' from most dicots which have reticulate venation.
Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis
The non-native monocot lily-of-the-valley originally found its way into Halibut Point as an ornamental planting.
Catbrier, Smilax rotundifolia
A comparison of its flowers to those of catbrier softens the shock that this thorny menace (and protector of small creatures) is a close relative of the lily.
Blue flag, Iris versicolor
The month of June brings forth a memorable monocot moment when blue flags bloom in stream beds on the moors of Halibut Point.
Blue-eyed-grass, Sisyrinchium montanum
The iris-like foliage of blue-eyed grass shows the Iridaceae family resemblance more straightforwardly than the flowers do.
Wild garlic, showing typical monocot stems
Monocots are also characterized by a scattered arrangement of vascular tissue. A cross-section reveals the veins situated all across the diameter of the stem. In dicots, from daisies to oak trees, fluids move up and down the plant within the xylem and phloem tissues that form concentric rings just beneath the 'bark.'
Crow garlic Allium vineale in flower
In the next essay we will take a glimpse at the grass family of monocots whose flowers are far less showy  than the Liliaceae but which forms the most important economic group of all plants.


  1. Really? No photos of your grand-daughter Lily and her kin? I'm shocked.

  2. Martin, your blog continues to be an amazing resource.