Michigan Lily (Turk’s Cap Lily)

Photo of Michigan lily, or Turk’s cap lily, closeup of flower
Scientific Name
Lilium michiganense
Liliaceae (Lilies)

Perennial lily with an unbranched, hairless stem, growing from a stout bulb. Flowers single or in whorls of 2–5, on stems arising from upper leaf axils, nodding, with 6 tepals (3 sepals and 3 petals, all 6 alike), orange with many purple spots, recurving; the 6 stamens and the stigma protrude prominently. Blooms June-July. Leaves lance-shaped, mostly whorled, sometimes alternate at the lowest and highest nodes, to 5 inches long and ¾ inch wide, roughened with minute, toothlike processes along the margins and veins.

Similar species: Tiger lily (L. lancifolium) has only alternate leaves and forms bulblets at leaf axils; a nonnative, it does not persist long out of cultivation. Wood lily (L. philadelphicum) has flowers erect, not nodding; possibly extirpated, it may still occur in some northern native prairies. Swamp lily (L. supurbum) has smooth leaves, lacking teeth; it has been found only in Perry County.


Height: 3–8 feet.

Where To Find
image of Michigan Lily Turk’s Cap Lily distribution map

Scattered statewide, but apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands.

Found in low woods, swampy meadows, moist areas in prairies, along streams, but sometimes on bluff ledges or other dry ground; also railroads and roadsides. Sometimes Michigan lily plants are found as colonies of small or spindly, nonflowering individuals. This is perhaps caused by excessive shading as trees form a closed canopy over formerly open areas. Such populations apparently can persist for many years without flowering.

Many people cultivate this native lily as a low-maintenance ornamental in flower gardens. It attracts hummingbirds and has no serious insect or disease problems.

Sphinx and hummingbird moths and large butterflies visit the flowers, and a variety of mammals browse the foliage. Small rodents, such as voles, that burrow underground probably eat the bulbs.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!