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Bead Lilies: Clintonia
Clintonia borealis, Minnesota.jpg
Clintonia borealis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Liliales
Family: Liliaceae
Subfamily: Medeoloideae
Genus: Clintonia
Raf. 1818 not Douglas ex Lindl. 1829 (syn of Downingia in Campanulaceae)[1]

Clintonia is a genus of flowering plants first described as a genus in 1818.[3][4] It is distributed across North America and eastern Asia[2] where it is found as an understory plant in woodlands. It was named after De Witt Clinton, an 18th-century botanist and U.S. politician.[5]


Clintonia species are herbaceous perennials growing from rhizomatous underground stems with thin, fibrous roots. They grow from 1.5 to 8 dm tall. They have 2 to 6 basal leaves arising from the rhizome crown, the basal leaves are sessile and sheathing, and the cauline leaves have a stalk. The blade of each leaf has a prominent central vein and entire margins, and the bottom ends are obovate to oblanceolate in shape. The leaf apex is acute to abruptly short-acuminate, often mucronate (ending abruptly in a short sharp point). The inflorescences are terminal, and the flowers are arranged into short racemes or umbel-like clusters, with 1 to 45 flowers. The flowers have 6 tepals with nectaries present. The stamens are inserted at the base of the perianth, and the anthers are oblong-obovate to oblong-linear shaped. The rounded to cylinder shaped ovary is superior with two chambers (sometime three). Each chamber produces 2 to 10 ovules. The smooth fruits are berry-like, round to egg-shaped, metallic blue to black in color. Four to thirty seeds are produced in each fruit and the seeds are shiny brown, round and the ends are angled with 2 or 3 faces.[6][7]


accepted species[2][8]

  1. C. andrewsiana - SW Oregon, W California
  2. C. borealis - E Canada, NE USA, Great Lakes, Appalachians
  3. C. udensis - China, Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Himalayas, Russian Far East
  4. C. umbellulata - Appalachians
  5. C. uniflora - western North America from Alaska to California


Clintonia species are cultivated as garden subjects in shade gardens, grown for the glossy foliage, small lily-like flowers, and blue fruits, and their ability to live in heavy shade. They grow best in cool, organic-rich, acid soils that retain moisture and when grown well form dense slowly spreading clumps.[9]


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