Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: A southern Appalachian endemic. Occurs in mountains of northern North Carolina and adjacent Virginia and Tennessee. Reports from Maryland and West Virginia are L. canadense var. editorum instead. Gray's lily is endemic to the southern Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Its two most important strongholds (each with thousands of individuals) are the Roan Mountain massif where L. grayi was first found, in Avery and Mitchell Counties, North Carolina, and Carter County, Tennessee, and Long Hope Valley in Ashe and Watauga Counties in North Carolina (Weakley, 1993). In North Carolina, verified populations are known from Allegheny, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Henderson, McDowell, Mitchell, and Watauga Counties with an historical county record existing for Yancey County (North Carolina Natural Heritage Program; United States Forest Service 198?). In Virginia, verified occurrences are known in the Blue Ridge counties of Grayson, Carroll, Floyd and Bedford, and records exist for Bath and Highland Counties (Ludwig, pers. comm.). Since this species has been widely cultivated, some of these records may be of planted populations (Hardin, 1977). In Tennessee, the plant is known only from Carter County (ESD-TNDEC EOR).
Comments: Moist, acid, highly organic and siliceous black loams of mountain balds (2800 ft and up) or in grass-sedge meadows.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Comments: Virginia: 4 element occurrences (Wieboldt, 83-07); North Carolina: 15 element occurrences; Tennessee: 2 element occurrences.
Life History and Behavior
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: A regional endemic threatened mainly by commercial exploita- tion and private gardeners. Few EO's of pure L. grayi and low abundance.
Comments: Vandalism, bulb collection by professional or amateur gardeners. The greatest threat to this species is vegetative succession due to hydrologic alteration of habitat and possibly the elimination from the landscape of agents of disturbance such as native grazers and wildfires. Grazing by cattle constitutes a threat on some managed areas such as the Roan Mountain Massif, while lower elevation populations occurring in wet meadows on private land may be threatened by mowing. (Pyne, pers. comm.) An additional threat to the species may be posed by an unknown pathogen. Symptoms of the disease are chlorosis and development of maroon spots on the leaves. Laboratory analysis of individuals displaying these characteristics was performed at North Carolina State University in 1992, but no pathogen was found to account for the symptoms. Discoloration of the leaves resembles that shown by other species (such as Acer saccharum) when suffering damage from exposure to atmospheric ozone, although this has not been confirmed by laboratory analysis (my obs). Flowering plants have been seen to senesce before seeds mature by several observers (Bucher, pers. comm.) This condition may be aggravated by weather; many flowering plants in Ashe County, North Carolina were observed to set seed in a wet year, but to prematurely senecse during a drought the next summer. Like many other showy species, L. grayi is exploited for commercial and private horticultural use, which may represent a minor threat. (Ludwig, pers. comm.) This species is exploited by unscrupulous wildflower collectors (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).
Biological Research Needs: Further taxonomic studies. The following is a hierarchical list of research needs on the biology of Lilium grayi: Electrophoretic study to determine genetic diversity among and between populations - how do these mostly small and isolated populations compare. Pollination and fertility - is this species genuinely an obligate outcrosser? - does it have any parthenogenic capabilities? Response of the species to climate change - how will its environment be affected by inputs of NO2 in rainfall.
Lilium grayi (Gray's lily, Orange bell lily, Roan lily) is a perennial plant that is endemic to the Eastern USA states of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee, growing in moist, acid soil in the Appalachian mountains on higher elevation meadows, bogs, and seeps. The plant was introduced to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1890 and was featured in the Kew Bulletin in 1892.
The species was named to honor Asa Gray, an eminent American botanist of the mid-19th century who discovered Lilium grayi in 1840 in the Appalachian mountains on Roan Mountain. At the time, Gray wasn't sure that it was a unique species, thinking that it might be a variety of Lilium canadense. He found more plants there in 1879 on a trip with Charles Sprague Sargent. Sereno Watson, curator at the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, found several differences from Lilium canadense, confirming that it was a distinct species, and named the plant in honor of his colleague.
Lilium grayi reaches 2 to 5 ft (0.61 to 1.52 m) tall. The 2 to 3 in (5.1 to 7.6 cm) leaves are lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate and carried around the stem in whorls. The 2.5 in (6.4 cm) reddish-orange bell-shaped flowers bloom in early summer and are carried on several umbels in a tiered style. Sepals and petals have purple spots.
Lilium grayi is closely allied to Lilium canadense, the Canada lily, and was originally thought to be that plant. L. grayi tends to have smaller flowers that are less pendulous, more open at bottom, and more suddenly narrowed at the apex.
Lilium grayi is very narrowly endemic to only three U.S. states—North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee—growing in sandstone and acidic soils, meadows, open areas near summits, forest meadows, and bluff outcrops. It grows in full sunlight. As of 2000, there were only 61 natural populations left in North Carolina, with some of them only having 5-10 plants—with populations in only one county in Tennessee as of 1993. Habitat is threatened by overgrazing by cattle, European wild boars, and rabbits. Increase of tree canopy also decreases available open habitat. The plant has also been reduced by illegal collecting and is susceptible to fungal infections.
- Leonard Adkins (10 August 2006). Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail, 2nd. Menasha Ridge Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-89732-974-3. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- "Lilium grayi". Wildflowers. North Carolina State University. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- "Lilium Grayi". National Collection of Imperiled Plants. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Christian Lamb (1 October 2004). From the Ends of the Earth: Passionate Plant Collectors Remembered in a Cornish Garden. Christian Lamb. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-903071-08-3. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Alice Lounsberry (1901). Southern Wild Flowers and Trees: Together with Shrubs, Vines and Various Forms of Growth Found Through the Mountains, the Middle District and the Low Country of the South. F.A. Stokes Company. p. 51. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- IPNI Listing for Lilium Grayi
- Christopher Brickell, The RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1996, p615. ISBN 0-7513-0436-0
- Sir William Jackson Hooker; David Prain; Otto Stapf; Royal Horticultural Society (Great Britain), Bentham-Moxon Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust (1892). Curtis's botanical magazine. Reeve Brothers. p. 7234. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
Lilium ×pseudograyi Grove (as species) is a name given to frequent hybrids between L. grayi and L. canadense that are scattered at somewhat lower elevations (usually 700–1000 m) in the southern Appalachians. The generally small stature of these hybrids is misleading and encourages the label of bona fide L. grayi, but in most respects they are intermediate. Sepal lengths of 4.8–6.2 cm and floral tube lengths of 3.2–4 cm predominate, and these are between the ranges of the two parent species. The freshwater wetland or moist hardwood habitat of these hybrids also reveals the contribution of L. canadense to their genome. J. K. Small (1933) made reference to depredations by lily enthusiasts who sought Gray’s lily because of its supposed rarity, and this continues today, though to a lesser degree. Of greater threat, perhaps, is succession on the high grassy balds that gradually shades and crowds the plants; like most lilies, this one requires open conditions for vigor and reproduction. Although fritillaries (Speyeria spp., family Nymphalidae) pilfer nectar from flowers of Gray’s lily, ruby-throated hummingbirds [Archilochus colubris (Linnaeus), family Trochilidae] are its only reliable pollinator. This red, tubular-flowered lily represents the zenith of pollinator-mediated evolution in the eastern true lilies, and is a high-elevation derivative of the ancestral stock that also produced Lilium canadense. The level of floral convergence with independently derived western Lilium species such as L. bolanderi and L. maritimum is remarkable and must be due to selection pressures exerted by hummingbirds during the floral evolution of these species.
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