Families of Vascular Plants - EEB337H

Liliales - Liliaceae (sensu lato)

288 genera/4950 species, in the most inclusive sense (i.e. sensu lato), worldwide, but especially in drier temperate and warm habitats. Usually perennial herbs, often with subterranean stem (rhizome, corm, bulb). Leaves simple, usually alternate, linear, and parallel-veined. Inflorescences may be spikes, racemes, panicles, or umbels, or flowers may be solitary. Many of the Ontario species featured here are spring ephemerals, that is, their underground perennating structures (bulbs, rhizomes) give rise to leaves and flowers that appear on the forest floor before the trees leaf out. By the time the canopy has closed and light levels at the forest floor have dropped these species will be in fruit.

(Above) Lilium philadelphicum Photo: M. Ferguson Royal Ontario Museum 2003. (Right) Erythronium americanum Photo: T. A. Dickinson © T. A. Dickinson 2003.

Flowers typically trimerous, the perianth often undifferentiated comprising 6 tepals; stamens usually 6, with a single pistil, the ovary compound and 3-chambered. Fruit usually a capsule1, but sometimes a berry2.

Recent opinion is coming around (again) to favor a much narrower concept of this family, and many genera have been transferred to other families and orders. Click HERE to visit the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website and review some of the latest thinking about this family. The recent treatment of the family in Vol. 26 of Flora of North America is more conservative, but provides a good discussion of the issues involved.

1. Capsule - A dry, dehiscent fruit that develops from a compound ovary. In contrast, follicles and legumes are dry dehiscent fruits that develop from simple ovaries.

2. Berry - A fleshy, indehiscent fruit that develops from a single ovary (simple or compound).

Ontario native genera of Liliaceae:  Allium, Camassia, Chamaelirium, Clintonia, Disporum, Erythronium, Hypoxis, Lilium, Maianthemum, Medeola, Polygonatum, Streptopus, Trillium, Uvularia, Zigadenus (Morton & Venn 1990; cf. Judd et al. p. 247ff.)

The Flora North America treatment of the Liliaceae (Utech 2002) is available HERE:

Flora North America - Liliaceae


The Families of Flowering Plants
DELTA database in natural language

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Images from Botany at the University of Hawaii

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Please send your comments to tim.dickinson@utoronto.ca; last updated 25-Oct-2008