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A Brief History of Lilies

A Brief History of Lilies

Lilies (Liliaceae) are a family of flowers with 80 to 100 species, the majority of which are native to the Northern Hemisphere, including Asia, Europe, and North America. The bulbs produce huge flowers with leafy stems, some of which are fragrant. Lilies have been prized for their beauty and fragrance throughout history, and they are a significant cultural emblem. These are cut flowers that have a variety of colors, including white, pink, red, orange, and yellow, that last a long time.


Lily: The Pure Flower

Ancient Times

The goddess Hera, Zeus's wife, was honored with the lily. According to legend, Hercules was fathered by Zeus with the mortal lady Alcmene. As a result, he desired for his son to experience god more thoroughly. In order to accomplish this, he had the kid delivered to Hera. He then put her to sleep with medication. He had the infant placed at her breast during this time. Hercules, on the other hand, was nursing. As a result, Hera awoke startled and surprised. Then he hurled the infant away from her. As a result, part of her milk spilled into the sky. As a result, the milky way is being formed. After that, a few drops of water dropped to the ground. The first lilies bloomed from the drops.

Venus, according to Roman legend, glimpsed a flower when she rose from the sea foam. As a result, she developed a jealous lust for its whiteness and beauty. She induced a big, monster pistil to sprout from the lily's snow-white heart, seeing it as a competitor to her own beauty. This legend explains why the lily is associated with Venus. And there are the Satyrs, who are the embodiment of passionate ardor.


Early Discoveries

In a villa in Amnisos, Crete, early representations of the lily were found. Lilies date from around 1580 B.C., during the Minoan Period. They are the sacred flower of the Minoans. In truth, Dictynna is a unique attribute of the Great Minoan Goddess Britomartis. Whose origins can be traced back to the Neolithic period? In Crete, she maintained her dominance. Until, in the middle of the sixteenth century B.C., a mysterious calamity struck Minoan civilization. Her cult was incorporated into Greek religion. After that, she was known as the forerunner of Greek Artemis.

In ancient Jewish civilization, lilies were also a popular flower. And it's stated multiple times in the Bible. As a result, it is called after Aelia Eudoxia. Who was the Roman Emperor Arcadius's formidable, strong-willed, and influential wife? From 401 to 403 AD, her bust is adorned in a diadem and the "Hand of God" holds a wreath over her head.


In the Bible

Both the Old and New Testaments mention the flower. In Christianity, the lily became a sign of purity and chastity, and it was associated with the Virgin Mary. It was also a sign of death, representing the loss of innocent children as well as the martyrdom of saints. And it's a popular Easter tradition. The scarlet anemone, Madonna lily, is regarded as the biblical lily (Cant. 2.1). The lilies of the field (Matthew 6.28) could refer to any wildflower, including the iris. Lily of the valley is a Convalleria cultivar. In addition, it bears two long oval leaves. And white bell-shaped flower spikes. Similarly, the Virgin Mary's Tears are represented. Happiness is making a comeback.

In Christian homes, white lily bouquets are particularly popular. As a result, they are used to commemorate Christ's resurrection during the Easter season.


Lily Explorers

Many new species of lily were found by European plant explorers, especially British, during the Victorian era as they scoured the globe for "new" plants. Augustine Henry, an Irish doctor who became a botanist and explorer, was one of the first. Initially drawn to the Orient in pursuit of therapeutic plants, he got engrossed in the hunt for unusual flowers. Henry's lily, Lilium henryi, is an orange Lilium genus.

Another well-known plant explorer was E.H. Wilson, an Englishman who discovered so many species in China that he acquired the moniker "Chinese Wilson." The white Lilium regale, or regal lily, was one of his most remarkable discoveries.


Easter Lily

Lilium longiflorum, the Easter lily, is a Japanese native. When an Oregon soldier named Louis Houghton returned home from World War I with some of the bulbs, he shared them with fellow gardeners in the United States. The Easter lily became scarce and expensive after World War II broke out and Asian sources of bulbs were cut off. The production of lily nurseries in the United States increased dramatically. By 1945, there were 1,200 lily farmers on the West Coast.


Hybridization History

Lilies were rare and difficult to cultivate before they were extensively hybridized. Many of the dependable hybrids on the market now were developed by Jan de Graaff, a native of Holland who founded Oregon Bulb Farms in 1934.


In 1938, De Graaff started experimenting with lilies, and in 1941, he created Enchantment, a coral-colored, upward-facing lily that Horticulture magazine dubbed “the most famous hybrid lily of all time.”


Medicinal Value and Historical Uses of Lilies

Despite the fact that the lily has no medicinal benefit, it was once thought to have magical properties. Fever, wounds, and arthritis were all treated with the lily in Elizabethan medical books.

Lily bulbs are starchy and have been used in Chinese cookery for centuries. They are a common element in Shanghai's native cuisine.

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