Simple and pure, Atamasco lilies were among the first of many beautiful wildflowers to be noticed by the Jamestown colonists as they explored the tidewater region of southeastern Virginia. A perennial herb that grows from a subterranean bulb, the leaves are glossy green, linear, flat to somewhat concave, up to one half inch wide and approximately one foot in length. The species name, atamasca, is attributed to Tapehanek words meaning under grass, in reference to the location of the bulb under grass-like leaves. Overall the plant is rather grass-like. 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 the perianth elements.

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Copyright © 2007 Carolina Gardener Inc. This article was first published in Carolina Gardener (May/June 2007), 14.

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