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National Symbols: National Flower

White Lily (common name)
Lilium candidum (scientific name)


Also Known As
Madonna lily, meadow lily


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Monocots
  • Order: Liliales
  • Family: Liliaceae
  • Genus: Lilium
  • Species: L. candidum

The Flower

The white lily grows from a bulb on a straight, thick stem; narrow leaves grow in pairs all along the stem, with long, pointed buds sprouting at the top. The flowers are fragrant, and form wide funnels, each composed of six long, narrow white petals that curve backward slightly. Each bloom has six pale yellowish stamens and a single, prominent pistil. Anthers are yellow to orange and prominently displayed. The blooms present a highly symmetrical appearance. Flowers ultimately produce round seed capsules which are initially green, but turn brown as they age. When ripe, the pods split open, releasing numerous small seeds. The white lily blooms from late spring to early summer. It is a popular garden plant, but often volunteers in fields and meadows around the Mediterranean.

Physical Details

Duration: Perennial

Plant: Herb

Mature Height: 1.2-2 m (4 to 6 feet) tall

Flowering:  Late spring to early summer

Flowers: 15-30 cm (6 to 12 in) wide, 1.2 m (3 in) long with six curved petals with six stamens

Flower Color: White

Leaves: 22.5 cm (9 in) long dark green blades

Fruit / Seed Color: Brown and tan


Location: Sunny littoral areas with good drainage.  

Range: Worldwide, but most common around the Mediterranean, the Balkans and West Asia. 


  • The flower has long been a symbol of purity, and has probably been cultivated since 1500 BCE. It is believed to have been a popular flower in ancient Greece and Rome. Later, it was associated with the Virgin Mary, and became widely known as the Madonna lily. In Medieval and Renaissance art, Mary is often depicted carrying these white lilies.
  • In traditional medicine, the plant was a remedy for skin injuries and irritation. Today, white lily oil is an ingredient in perfumes. However, the plants are poisonous and can be dangerous to pets, especially cats.