Lily

Plant: Lily
Botanical Name: Lilium

Synonyms, Country Names:

Symbolic: By Elizabethan times it was generally accepted by artists, sculptors and poets as the unrivaled symbol of elegance and purity. Shakespeare mentions the flower nearly thirty times but always he refers to some such quality rather than a feature he has noticed in its form or growth. Its whiteness is referred to in A Midsummer Nights Dream: "Most radiant Pyramus, most lily-white of hue."

Quotations:

Cultivation: The lily and the rose were associated together several times by Shakespeare. Both have been cultivated down the years from ancient times so that we now have both plants in diverse colors and form. The lily is more difficult to grow successfully so it is not found in our gardens as often as the rose. The white lily is probably the oldest to be cultivated for it is found pictured on vases and other objects in Crete and Egypt dating centuries before Christ. Legend has it that lilies first sprang from tears of Eve as she was exiled from Eden. The ancient world dedicated it to Juno for they said its whiteness was because it sprang from the spilling of her milk on to the earth. Later its purity and sweet perfume made it a symbol of the Virgin Mary and it appeared in many paintings in churches and monasteries, hence it became known as the Madonna Lily.

The Useful Plant: Bulbs are starchy and edible as a root vegetable much like a potato although some species are bitter. In China lilies are a luxury or health food, most often sold in dry form. Eaten in summer for their ability to reduce internal heat. Can be stir-fried, grated and used to thicken soup. While they are believed to be safe for humans, cats had kidney failure from some species.
Lilies were prescribed for bruises, boils, ulcers, inflammations and for softening hard skin. The oil of the lily was used as a lubricant for the vagina and midwives hands and as an emollient to soothe the tissues of the birth canal.

Folklore:

Personal: Monica Van Zale
Colorado Shakespeare Gardens
February 2013