Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Easter Lily

Lilium Longiflorum - The Easter lily
Just as the poinsettia takes center stage at Christmas time, the Easter Lily does the same at Easter time, adorning our sanctuaries and being used to decorate our altars for the Easter season every year. The Easter Lily was discovered by a missionary priest in the 19th century on Ryukyu Island, off Japan. It is a stem rooting lily, growing up to 3 feet high. It bears a number of trumpet shaped, white, fragrant, and outward facing flowers, with pointed green leaves. Its technical name is Lilium longiflorum. The missionary who found it eventually tried to take some bulbs to England, but was stranded in Bermuda, where they bloomed for the first time on April 16, 1854. They reached Philadelphia in 1876.

From the 1890s to the early 1920s, there was a thriving export trade of bulbs from Bermuda to New York. A disease affected the Bermuda lilies: this was identified by Lawrence Ogilvie. Then most Easter lily bulbs arriving in the United States were imported from Japan before 1940s. The supply of bulbs was suddenly cut off after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Easter lilies became extremely valuable in the United States.

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