Atamasco lily is a perennial herb that grows from a subterranean bulb. The bulb is dark, with a short neck and papery tunic formed by remnants of old leaf bases. Leaves are glossy green, linear, flat to somewhat concave, up to one half inch wide, approximately one foot in length and, overall, rather grasslike. When not in flower the plants can be easily overlooked. Flowering stems are leafless scapes that are about as long as the leaves. In crosssection the scapes are hollow. Each scape terminates in a single flower. A few papery bracts subtend the flower stalk where it attaches to the tip of the scape. Flowers are erect to slightly inclined. As in many "lilies," sepals and petals are only subtly distinguished, so the term tepal is often used to describe perianth elements. Six tepals are fused at their bases forming a gradually flaring funnellike structure that may be up to one inch in length. Above the greenish funnellike portion, the individual tepals separate, flare laterally, and take on a white coloration. Sometimes the perianth lobes are tinged with pink or purple, especially as the flower ages. From base to tip the flowers are approximately three inches long. Overall, flower form is reminiscent of a small trumpet lily. Indeed, an alternative common name is "Easter lily."
Copyright © 2007, Virginia Native Plant Society. This article first appeared in Virginia Native Plant Society Brochure (2007), 1-4.
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Hayden, W. John. "2007 Wildflower of the Year: Atamasco Lily, Zephyranthes atamasca." Virginia Native Plant Society Brochure, 2007, 1-4.