Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

The Liliaceae Family
Lily Family - Monocots

The Liliaceae is now, after taxonomic changes a medium size family. They are ecologically diverse and widely distributed in the temperate regions of North America although most species are native to Asia through China.

According to the United States Geological Survey, Plants, in North America there are 108 genera with 870 accepted taxa overall. The Plant List includes 18 plant genera and 746 accepted species names in Liliaceae. The Encyclopedia Britannica lists 16 genera and 635 species of herbs and shrubs.

Originally the Liliaceae was a large complex family of monocots sharing similar characteristics such as; petals and sepals looking similar (tepals), 6 stamens and a superior ovary, parallel venation and a three chambered capsule. As a result many sources and descriptions still include species which have long since been placed elsewhere through better taxonomic research and methods which have improved through the use of plant genetics and molecular biology.

Examples of families containing species previously included in Liliaceae include the Asparagaceae with 128 plant genera and 2,929 accepted species names. Included in Asparagaceae is Agave, Dichelostemma, Hesperaloe, Nolina and Yucca. Also previously included is the Amaryllidaceae with 80 plant general and 2,258 accepted species names. Included in Amaryllidaceae is Allium, Nothoscordum and others.

Characteristics of the Lily Family are large showy flowers divided into 3 and 6 parts, flowers are radially symmetric (actinomorphic) petals and sepals similar in appearance and collectively called tepals which are often arranged in whorls, 6 stamen and a superior ovary and a 3 chambered capsule. Other common characteristics include alternate or whorled leaves, some leaves clustered at the base, leaves linear, simple, entire, generally parallel venation and living part of their life cycle underground as bulbs or rhizomes.

Many species in the Lily Family are cultivated as ornamental plants throughout the world for outdoor landscapes and indoor containers, especially Tulips (Tulipa) and Lilies (Lilium).

Members of this family produce nectar and pollen attracting a wide range of insects including bees, wasps and butterflies.

References: Date completed: 09/20/2015; Updated 10/02/2019
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database – ITIS search
United States Geological Survey, Plants (accessed 09/30/2019).
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 010/02/2019.)
Wikipedia contributors, 'Liliaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 September 2015, 02:00 UTC, [accessed 28 October 2015]
Melissa Petruzzello, Assistant Editor, Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online; "Liliaceae", (accessed 09/30/2019).