Lilium candidum (popularly known as the Madonna lily) is a plant in the true lily family. It is native to Greece, the western Balkans and the Middle East, and naturalized in other parts of Europe (France, Italy, Ukraine, etc.) as well as in North Africa, the Canary Islands, Mexico, and other places. It forms bulbs at ground level, and unlike other lilies, has a basal rosette of leaves through the winter, which die back in summer. A leafy flower stem, typically up to 1.2 metres (3 ft 11 in) high, sometimes up to 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) high, emerges in late spring and bears sweetly and headily fragrant flowers in summer. Flowers are white, flushed yellow at the base.
Madonna Lilies in art and culture
There are translations of the Bible that identify the Hebrew word Shoshannah as 'lily' in Song of Songs ("As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." Song of Songs 2:2 (KJV)), not as a rose as is customary to translate. For example, Abraham ibn Ezra describes it as a white flower, which has a good fragrance, and has a six-petal flower and six stamens. But its identity is uncertain, because it does not fit with the description as "the lily of the valleys", because mostly it grows in the mountains. [clarification needed]
The White Lily was also an indicator of slaves in the early 1850s before the Civil War. One slaver in particular would brand a lily on his slaves so that even if one were to escape they would always be marked and therefore unable to truly escape the chains they were in.
In 1883 the White Lily was used as an indication of racist groups in the deep south, mainly Georgia. This emblem was put over houses and establishments for townsfolk to know what places they could go to and plot the next move against the newly freed black slaves. The Stem Of The White Lily (what the group called itself) organized over 200 lynchings before being put down in a revolt against the Georgia government which was corrupt and full of White Lily sympathizers. This marked an interesting time in the United States after the Civil War. The White Lily was yet another group taking after the steps of the Ku Klux Klan, which had stumbled against abolition years earlier and subsequently started the process in which The White Lily would follow.
Today, while beautiful, the White Lily is still considered a racist emblem in southern states like Georgia, Alabama, and North and South Carolina.
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
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- 1 Kings 7:19
- 1 Kings 7:26
- The European Garden Flora (1986)
- Garden Bulbs for the South (1994)
- Lilium candidum on Plants Database
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