Lilium parryi

Watson 1878

Lemon lily



  • Section: Pseudolirium, Section 2B (West Coast, North America)
  • Origin: Southwestern United States (southern California, Arizona); Mexico (Sonora, Baja California)
  • Habitat: wet meadows, streams in montane conifer forest, riparian habitat
  • Type: Western American wetland-riparian
  • Status: Threatened


Lilium parryi is named for Charles Christopher Parry (1823-1880) an American botanist who worked for the United States government. Lilium parryi, Like Lilium occidentale, is found sparsely only in a narrow mountainous area in the southern United States in the Palomar, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, and San Jacinto Mountains of south California. It is found in Arizona, but is very rare, in the Huachuca, Chiricahua, and San Rita Mountains. And in Mexico in the states of Sonora and Baja California, from 4,200-10,000 feet (1,300-3,000m) in elevation. Its rarity has everything to do with human activity, especially habitat destruction and fragmentation, as well as overgrazing, and poaching.

Only one type is currently recognized, Lilium parryi parryi. Formerly Lilium parryi kessleri (Davidson 1924) was suggested to be a subtype that occurred in the San Gabriel mountains but is now synonymous with the typical or standard type. Eddie McRae grew several hundred, including what was labeled Lilium parryi kessleri, at Columbia Platte Lilies in the early 2000s. They flowered nicely and he said he could tell no discernible difference between the two types, and concluded they were all Lilium parryi.


Lilium parryi rises from a rhizomatous bulb with numerous jointedales. The stem is narrow and rises 2-7 feet (0.6m-2m), with narrow linear lanceolate leaves arranged in whorls. The inflorescence is a raceme with 1-30 outfacing bright lemon yellow trumpet flowers with varying degrees of red spotting. The stamens curl outward and are covered in orange pollen. The flowers have an intense spicy fragrance that can't be mistaken for anything other than Lilium parryi The primary pollinators are hawk moths, especially Hyles lineata and Sphinx perelegans.


Lilium parryi inhabits the California montane-chaparral and woodlands ecoregion (CAMCWER), which is a sub-ecoregion of the larger California Chaparral Woodland terrestrial-ecoregion. The CAMCWER is is an ecoregion spanning 7,900 square miles (20,000km2) of mountains in the Transverse Ranges, Peninsular ranges, Coast ranges, of Southern and Central California.

The CAMCWER spreads from the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains, San Jacinto mountains, San Gabriel mountains, Santa Susana mountains, Santa Monica mountains, Sierra Pelona mountains, Topatopa mountains, Tehachapi mountains, San Rafael mountains, Santa Ynez mountains, and Santa Lucia mountains. The ecoregion is a Mediterranean climate characterized by hot, dry summers, and cool and wet in the winters.

While Lilium parryi grows in a desert climate, it does so in protected canyon bottoms near running streams. It also grows at higher elevations in its range in areas that don't get too dry, such as near spring and seeps, but where the water is flowing, not stagnant.

Populations of Lilium parryi exist isolated from each other in mountain chains or sky islands separated by desert areas.


Lilium parryi grows in several mountain ranges collectively known as the Transverse Ranges. The climate of these ranges varies with elevation from continental to Mediterranean, with mostly dry summers and cold, wet winters. Snow is common above 4,000-feet (1,219m) between November and April, but is most common in December through March.

Annual precipitation totals are mostly in excess of 25-inches (640mm) on the coastal (southern) slopes above 3,000-feet (914m) elevation, with up to 45-inches (1,100mm) falling in some areas above 5,000-feet (1,524m). The coastal (south) side of the range receives more precipitation than the desert (northern) side. The highest precipitation is found in the central and eastern parts of the range (Mt. Wilson to Mt. San Antonio). Annual precipitation totals are highly variable from year to year, and can be extremely high during wet El Nino years (sometimes over 70-inches (1,800mm). Major precipitation events are common with single storm totals over 10-inches (250mm) in 24-hours.

Wildfires are a problem during summer and fall, before the rains come, especially during dry Santa Ana wind events. The range is mostly smog free above 5,000-feet (1,524m) elevation, above the inversion layer. Winter temperatures drop below freezing in its native habitat, and snow is possible, but it does not usually get below 0 °F (- 18 °C).

Rainfall is low in these desert climates in summer, which explains why the lily only survives where surface water is present.

General information

The Idyllwild Nature Center center holds a Lemon Lily festival every year to raise awareness of the threats to the lily and generate money for habitat restoration. The mission of the Lemon Lily Festival is to foster an appreciation for the threatened native Lily, Lilium parryi, educate the public of its plight and relevance to Idyllwild, restore it to its historical range.


With its range in Southern California and Arizona, one might be forgiven for thinking that Lilium parryi is a dryland lily, but it grows in sandy soils in canyons near running water. It does not want stagnant water, but fresh water with oxygen. Soils must be well-drained, but not drying out in summer. Drip irrigation in sandy, gritty soil suits it fine. It enjoys some dappled shade as respite from the hot summer sun, but will reach for the sun and flop over if it's too shady. It is hardy in a zone 7 garden in western Washington, probably not in more extreme cold in zone 6 or below. It's not a vigorous plant and should be protected from weeds and more vigorous companions. Gordon Hogenson grows it in a raised bed on a terraced slope under the shade of an oak. Eddie grew it in pots, but make sure the pots are not exposed to strong sunlight, as the bulbs not be allowed to overheat.

Propagation by seed is relatively easy. Germination is delayed hypogeal or immediate epigeal at room temperature. Watch seedling pots or Ziploc bags carefully and move them into the light or pot up if they send up green shoots, but keep over winter for emergence in the spring if they do not.

If bulbs in a garden bed don't emerge in spring, don't assume they're dead. If conditions aren't right for them, they sometimes don't have enough stored energy, or the right signal to emerge. I suggest digging them up and holding them over in pots or plastic bags (with moist vermiculite), since if left in the ground for a full year in the ground, they will likely disappear. Once they start to grow, or have gained enough strength by growing in a pot in a more protected environment, try planting them out again conditions more to their liking.