Lilium philadelphicum (Wood Lily)

Plant Info
Also known as: Western Orange-cup Lily, Western Red Lily
Family:Liliaceae (Lily)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry woods, meadows, prairies
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals

[photo of flowers] Typically 1 to 3 flowers at the top of the stem, occasionally up to 5. Flowers are 2½ inches across, have 6 petal-like tepals, deep orange to red, or uncommonly nearly all yellow, yellow at the base and marked by dark maroon brown spots. Tepals are spatula shaped, abruptly narrowed at the base, the upper blade portion tapering to a pointed tip.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are generally elliptical, 2 to 4 inches long, ½ to 1 inch wide, toothless and hairless with a pointed tip, alternately attached on the lower stem and whorled at top, with 4 to 11 leaves in a whorl. The main stem is smooth and unbranched.


Wood Lily is the most widespread native lily species in Minnesota and in North America. Minnesota's var. andinum is the more western subspecies, var. philadelphicum is eastern, being differentiated by leaves in whorls throughout the stem. While beautiful to the human eye, it is also an important part of the food web. In any given population, single plants are typically found scattered around the area. In a grassy locale they are difficult to spot when not in bloom.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Cass County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cass County and in a private garden in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Carol - Park Rapids, Hubbard County
on: 2011-01-15 20:10:45

I saw one a year or so after I built a house and put in a driveway in 1990. It was along the driveway. I wish I had marked the spot and protected it as much as possible. I haven't seen it since.

Posted by: Bruce - Frenchman's Bluff SNA - Norman County, MN
on: 2012-10-23 10:13:41

Good sized patch blooming on small hilltop.

Posted by: Janet - Clearwater county
on: 2013-07-07 20:03:57

Several 7/13 in dry, sunny area. Pine and popple forest. Want to transplant it but afraid it will die!

Posted by: Rose - badger
on: 2013-07-11 11:33:10

We found one blooming in our front yard at the edge of the ditch.

Posted by: Alan - Stearns County
on: 2013-07-14 10:07:29

They were blooming in the southern area of Roscoe Prairie SNA on: 2013-07-13.

Posted by: Beth - Tofte, MN
on: 2013-08-04 21:10:07

They were blooming on a rock outcropping along Lake Superior's Shore

Posted by: Ronald - Waseca Co. Old rail tracks, few in a group, 6
on: 2013-10-03 14:05:38

Friends: Yesterday while collecting seed for a restoration also found the Wood Lily plants. Again these are different for this spot, seen the turk caps but not these Wood Lily before.

Posted by: Charles - Ivanhoe, MN
on: 2014-02-25 22:36:17

Is this the same lily I used to see as a child in road ditches around Elbow Lake, MN in the 1950s? What ever happened to them, they seemed to be everywhere back then and now I never see them anymore?!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-02-26 04:51:08

Charles, what probably happened: human activity destroyed their habitat.

Posted by: Keith - Nerstrand State Park and Rural Pope County
on: 2014-05-20 15:30:20

I have found one plant growing in the ditch while driving through Nerstrand State Park and have also found them in Rural Pope County.

Posted by: Bill - Thief River Falls
on: 2014-07-04 20:48:57

The lily is blooming now in Pennington Co Minnesota

Posted by: Greg - Nisswa, central crow wing county
on: 2014-07-05 06:01:49

Beautiful blooming in sandy open areas

Posted by: Jenn - Great River Bluffs State Park
on: 2014-07-07 21:59:53

Found at the top of King's trail in Great River Bluffs State Park. (Winona)

Posted by: Dawayne - north of Wheaton
on: 2015-04-26 11:39:45

A very nice patch of wood lilies have continued to bloom in this spot since the 1950s. It is a stretch of native prairie that follows an old railroad line. They are beautiful plants and have always liked seeing the bright orange flowers dotting the area.

Posted by: Martha - Great River Bluffs State Park - At the King's Bluff Overlook
on: 2015-06-22 12:38:00

In late June, on the west facing hillside look for this lily as well as the delicate and poisonous White Camas. Several clumps of bright orange Butterfly Weed (with butterflies) also in the area.

Posted by: Darlene - Caribou
on: 2015-07-05 18:29:50

Seen a lot of these plus the lady slippers out by our cabin in caribou. Very pretty.

Posted by: Steve - North shore
on: 2015-07-14 08:30:13

Saw several on and around Shovel Point in Tettegouche State Park on 7-14-2015.

Posted by: Marit - Spicer
on: 2015-07-20 15:56:00

One plant is growing in our front yard on Green Lake in Spicer, MN. Not sure how it got there, but very beautiful!

Posted by: paul - St. Paul
on: 2016-06-25 20:18:51

I saw two blooming today, June 25, 2016, at Ottawa Bluffs in Le Sueur County.

Posted by: Terry - In the ditch East of Elbow Lake
on: 2016-06-29 15:09:04

For Charles in Ivanhoe, MN 2-25-14....Noticed several plants in the ditch just East of Elbow Lake today. Hopefully you can go see them. :)

Posted by: Kate - Minnetonka
on: 2016-07-20 19:19:35

We have 3 in our backyard among our tiger lilies. They are deep orange, five feet tall and have 8 to 10 flowers on each stem. Beautiful but a little scary with the black berries on the smooth stem. 1 block off Cedar Lake Rd, Minnetonka MN.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-20 20:15:09

Kate, wood lilies wouldn't grow that tall, have that many flowers on a stem, or have black berries - you're describing tiger lily, not wood lily.

Posted by: Kate - Minnetonka MN
on: 2016-08-07 13:33:00

Thanks K Chayka. The 3 tiger lilies are growing among our day lilies. Very pretty.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-08-07 14:43:27

Kate, note that if the tiger lilies volunteered in your yard, you're experiencing the problem with exotic species escaping cultivation and your yard may be only one stop on their way across the landscape. They may be pretty but it's still a problem.

Posted by: Dave J - Stevens County
on: 2017-03-14 16:10:47

I know of a number of locations where Wood Lily grows in Stevens County but I see on the distribution map there is no record of it here. This is the case for other species too, such as Spiranthes magnicamporum (Great Plains Ladies'-tresses). Is it advisable to report the these locations or does it generally not matter much?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-03-14 17:41:44

Dave, the best thing to do is collect a specimen for the Bell Herbarium, then it becomes part of the official county records. You need permission from the landowner (whether private or public entity) to collect on their property, or a special permit for certain state lands, but there is otherwise no special skill needed. The Bell has collection guidelines on their website, regarding preparing the specimen and labeling.

Posted by: Marilyn L - Big Falls area in Koochiching county
on: 2017-06-27 06:41:03

We saw about 10 Wood Lily growing near a old railroad grade deep in the woods in a wet boggy area. Beautiful flower.

Posted by: Bob - Hubbard County
on: 2017-07-12 08:09:44

Spotted several of these beautiful delicate flowers while picking blueberries north of Lake George. Sandy acidic soils in pine forest edges.

Posted by: Steve - Mound Prairie SNA, Houston County
on: 2018-06-26 11:38:17

A small patch of plants growing on well-drained soil, in the shade along path above the south rim of rock quarry.

Posted by: Richard - Paul Bunyan State Forest in Hubbard county.
on: 2018-06-30 18:52:19

Saw a few of these last year but this year there are many. These are nice looking wildflowers. They are growing beside red and jack pine trees in sandy soil. They seem to like lots of sunshine.

Posted by: Linda Merritt - Hackensack
on: 2018-07-02 08:21:01

We built a new home a few years ago and were doing some landscaping and I didn't know if we had wildflowers, so I just pulled up grasses and weeds I knew. We watched one plant grow to almost 4 feet and then a orange lily bloom. It looks like a wood lily, but the leaf has like a black seed where it joins the stem. Last year I knocked the seeds off and now have more plants and waiting to see if we get more blooms.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-07-02 12:42:52

Linda, what you have is tiger lily (a garden escapee), not wood lily.

Posted by: Jason R - Mcleod County
on: 2018-07-07 11:11:42

I found at least a dozen Wood Lilies blooming at Schaefer Prairie a few days ago. Saw plants with 1,2,3,4,5 flower heads. It appears to be a good year for them.

Posted by: Pat W - Brainerd Arboretum
on: 2018-07-07 14:45:18

Saw a few in bloom week of July 1 along the North Star trail in the Arboretum property. One of the most beautiful wild flowers ever!

Posted by: k wallace - northern hubbard county
on: 2019-07-01 16:56:52

I found one of these growing in the middle of a wooded area by a small clearing. I hadn't seen one before so I snapped a picture to see if I could find out about it. Pretty neat these grow wild in Minnesota....

Posted by: k. blackledge - Tamarac NWR, Becker County
on: 2019-07-17 23:03:06

Several specimens blooming throughout the refuge this year.

Posted by: Stephen L Thomforde - Bloomington
on: 2020-02-12 03:49:03

I love your "foodweb" friendly concept. The Odum brothers would agree! Google Howard and or Eugene Odum. Keep up the good work. ST~

Posted by: Jerry - Western Polk County
on: 2020-02-12 19:05:14

Nice patch of lilies bloom on a steep riverbank in Vineland Township. Apparently the site was too steep to graze or plow. It is a hidden gem.

Posted by: Valerie - Hubbard County, Lake George, Lake Alice
on: 2020-06-22 09:39:52

We found 7 solitary plants throughout our drive in the woods yesterday. Each plant was not far from the dirt roads (CR95, CR44, CR4, CR68) and not near any water source as the hundreds of Lady Slippers are located. Took pictures of last 2 of them after realizing they were pretty rare in our neck of the woods.

Posted by: Kristin Chirhart - north of Lake George MN
on: 2020-06-24 21:27:45

We saw two plants today

Posted by: M. Palen - King's Bluff State Natural Area
on: 2020-06-29 09:31:22

Several currently in bloom immediately off the end of the trail to the King's Bluff overlook at Great River Bluffs State Park/King's Bluff State Natural Area.

Posted by: Bob Guelker - Nevis
on: 2020-07-03 11:48:42

I've got one plant with 2 flowers along one of my walking trails through the meadow--south-central Hubbard County. I'm careful to mow around it. Beautiful! I wish they grew in groups! There's usually one loner out back, but I haven't checked on it yet. They're tricky--hard to pick out until they bloom.

Posted by: Angi Neu - Aiken county on county road 2 between 65 and Malmo
on: 2020-09-12 07:48:40

Went for a walk at the cabin and and saw a bunch, not all together but individual plants along the walk. The were all along the road or driveway. The area is mostly swampy but along the road it's quite sandy. I originally thought they were immature Michigan lilies.

Posted by: Davis - Murray
on: 2021-09-30 11:57:48

Present at County Line WMA

Posted by: Rebecca Vave - Becker County, Atlanta Township
on: 2022-07-12 16:14:57

A number of these are growing on the old townhall plot.

Posted by: Adam Heckathorn - Buffalo River State Park.
on: 2023-04-11 15:02:38

I've seen just a few in the prairie areas south of the river walking the trials. There real stunners.

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