One of the highlights of my recent trip to North Carolina was finding and photographing some Gray’s Lilies (Lilium grayi). Found in only three states (Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia), they are listed as endangered in Tennessee and threatened in North Carolina.
My plans for the trip including a hike on the Tanawha Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway – it is one places where the Gray’s Lilies have been found and late June is one of the times you can find them. Since I knew they might be blooming, throughout my trip I was keeping an eye out along the sides of the road and trails for orange/red lilies – just in case I spotted one elsewhere. You can imagine my surprise as I was driving through the Pisgah National Forest from Carver’s Gap to Rhododendron Gardens to spot a flash of orange out of the corner of my eye. I circled back – just in case – since I knew the Gray’s Lilies are native to the Roan Mountain area. And there on the side of the road – were five separate Gray’s Lilies. Only two were in bloom – the others were not yet blooming but probably would be in just a few days after I saw them. I had a wonderful time photographing the Gray’s Lilies.
Gray’s Lilies generally grow to about 3 feet tall – although they have been known to grow as tall as 8 feet. Each plant has whorls of 4-8 leaves and between 1 -4 nodding flowers. The orange/red flowers with puprle spots flowers are bell-shaped. The petals neither open out like the petals of the Canada Lily nor curve back like the petals of the Turk’s Cap Lily. They bloom in June and July.
Gray’s Lilies grow on the mountain balds of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. They need the full sunlight and higher elevations provided in these locations. Their survival is threatened by habitat destruction, over collection, grazing animals and several types of fungal infections. As a state and federally listed species, the Gray’s Lilies should never be dug up from protected areas.
Finding the Gray’s Lilies in the Pisgah National Forest was a wonderful treat. I enjoyed photographing them – and since I didn’t find any on the trail I’d hoped to find them on later in the trip – I was especially glad to have gone back to figure out exactly what that flash of orange I spotted was in the National Forest.
If you’d like to learn more about Gray’s Lilies – some online sites with additional information include