If you don’t find me in a garden, chances are I will be off for a hike somewhere in the woods. Botany is the core of who I am, and I love to identify plants wherever I go. There’s always something new and exciting to learn, especially as the seasons change. This time of year, holds a special place in my heart because right around Independence Day, I know mother nature is setting off her own fireworks, albeit these are rather difficult to find.
I encountered this elusive forest dwelling wildflower several years ago by pure luck when I noticed a ray of sun illuminating something brilliant red amongst the understory brush; it turned out to be one of our native lilies known as the Canada lily (Lilium canadense). I never knew we had a native lily in Ohio but in fact we have four species within our borders. The other three are the wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum), Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense), and Turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum). While I am making every effort to find these other beauties, I have not seen them out in the wild yet, so my focus for now will be on the Canada lily. The Canada lily is most commonly a bright red flower with an exotic, intense dark-spotted, yellow center when held upright.
However, I have seen a bit of variation among individuals, some with a more vibrant red than others and some with more or less dark spotting. Some have more pronounced recurved petals. The best place to look for these flowers is in moist forests near streams, but they are still challenging to find since they tend to form small populations. One of the best places I found to easily view them is at the Beaver Marsh in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just north of the boardwalk. Seeking these gems out may be a bit more on the tedious side but seeing them for the first time will leave you in awe. Who knows, you may even encounter a ruby-throated hummingbird when you find your first one.
Danny Wylie is a Gardener for the Main Display Garden at the Holden Arboretum. He began working for Holden Forests & Gardens April 2022. He loves all things plants and is always looking to learn more about them. Outside of work he enjoys hiking, tending to his own collection of exotic plants, and writing.