Lily 101

  • Posted on 06/29/2016 by Laura

We all know the lily to be a lovely and dainty flower. You might be surprised by the uses of the lily’s bulbs. The flowers aren’t just pretty to look at!

Meanings

  • White: purity
  • Scarlet: high-souled aspirations
  • Orange: desire, passion, hatred

The Legend

Zeus’ wife, Hera, created the lily from her breast milk. It became a symbol for purity. Venus, the goddess of beauty, however was so jealous of the white and purity that she altered the lily slightly, causing the pistil to grow from the center of the flower.

Or an alternate legend… Some Christians believe that the lily actually came about from the area where Christ’s blood fell as he was hanging on the cross.

In Elizabethan times, the lily was believed to have magical qualities. Medical texts of the time often recommended using the lily to treat fever, wounds, and arthritis.

Symbolism

To Christians and Pagans alike, the flower became a symbol of fertility. Even today they continue to represent this purity and abundance, particularly in Greece, where brides wear crowns made from lilies and wheat.

In some cultures, the lily is a symbol for purity in death. They are placed on the graves of deceased innocent children, saints, and martyrs.

The lily is associated with the Virgin Mary because of her chastity and purity. It makes sense then from the Christian legend and the association with the Virgin, that many churches are often adorned with lilies at Easter to symbolize the resurrection of Christ.

Culinary and Herbal Use

The bulbs of lilies are very starchy and can be eaten as root vegetables, although some may be very bitter. The bulbs that aren’t bitter are either considered a luxury or a health food in China. The dry form of the bulb is used in the South to flavor soup. The bulbs and flower are often eaten during the summer because it is believed they can reduce internal heat. They are eaten in stir-fry, to thicken soups, or simply as a starch.

The bulbs are also often eaten and used as herbs in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Fun Fact

Many plants use the term “lily,” but they are unrelated to “true” lilies.

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