Lilium pyrophilium

Sandhills Lily


  • SectionPseudolirium, Section 2, subsection C (S2c)
  • Origin: East Coast United States (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina)
  • Habitat: Transition zones between wet & dry sand seeps, swamps, and coastal flood plains
  • Type: Eastern American wetland
  • Status: Critically Endangered


Lilium pyrophilium is a critically endangered species found in only a very small area from Southeastern Virginia to southcentral South Carolina. It is found exclusively in the nutrient poor mineral soils of sandy transition zones between dry pine forests and wooded creek forest. It is a fire-chaser like its western American cousins, inhabiting disturbed areas where fires help maintain a suitable habitat. Fewer than 200 flowering plants are known to exist in the wild in some 50 known populations, the largest being on a U.S. Army military base, Fort Brag, home to U.S. Army Special Warfare Operations (Where they're no doubt well protected from poachers). Here the lily grows in a restricted and monitored area inside a live-fire range where the frequent fires set by ordnance maintains the habitat for the lily to thrive (and not easily accessed by poaches who are deterred by having to navigate miles of terrain littered with unexploded ordnance) .

Originally listed as a variant of Lilium iridollae, or possibly a natural hybrid between Lilium superbum and Lilium iridollae, genetic testing in 2002 has settled the debate that Lilium pyrophillium is indeed a distinct species. There are no recognized subtypes of Lilium pyrophillium.


Lilium pyrophillium is genetically most closely related to Lilium superbum which it shares its endemic range with. The stem rises 3-5 feet (1.5m) tall, with lancelet leaves arranged in whorls often clustered near the base of the stem which allows the upper part of the stem with the flowers to extend upward through vegetation. The inflorescences is an umbel with 3-5 Turk's cap flowers of dusky-red colored yellow-orange towards the center covered in magenta spots. The stamens are very exerted and covered with orange-brown pollen. The seed is large and dark brown.

The primary pollinators are the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), and the Palamedes swallowtail (Papilio palamedes).