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Posted by Kevin Kegan on May 19, 2014 | Last Updated: January 29, 2018 Uncategorized

The History of the Lily: The Pure Flower

Created from the breast milk of Hera, wife of Zeus in Greek mythology, the lily flower is the symbol of purity. The Roman goddess of beauty Venus was so jealous of the lily’s white purity that she caused the pistil to grow from the flower’s center.

The first picture of a lily appeared in Crete around 1580 BC. These white, graceful flowers became a symbol of fertility for pagans and Christians. The Old Testament, New Testament and many other ancient books across a variety of societies mention lilies. The flowers still represent purity and abundance in Greece, where brides wear crowns made of lilies and wheat.

In most cultures in history, the lily represents purity, chastity and virtue. However, the lily is a symbol of death in some civilizations. Sprinkled on the graves of innocent children, saints and martyrs, lilies can represent purity in passing.

European explorers crisscrossed the globe, searching for medicinal plants during the Victorian era. One notable explorer, Augustine Henry, became enamored with lilies and switched the goal of his expedition from finding medicinal plants to locating new types of lilies. Lily growers developed the orange Lilium henryii, or Henry’s lily, in his honor. E.H. Wilson scoured China for lilies, eventually discovering the magnificent white Lilium regale, sometimes called the regal lily.

History of the Easter Lily

Easter lilies, whose scientific name is Lilium longiflorum,  are perhaps the best-known type of lily. The flowers, which adorn many churches at Easter, symbolize the resurrection of Christ. Some Christians believe that lilies emerged where drops of Christ’s blood fell as he hung on the cross. Christians also strongly associate the lily with the Virgin Mary as a symbol of her chastity and purity.

Easter lilies are native to Japan. World War I soldier Louis Houghton brought Easter lily bulbs home to share with fellow gardeners in 1919. The flower’s popularity grew quickly in the United States but World War II made lilies scarce and expensive. This spawned American production of Easter lilies. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, there were 1,200 lily bulb producers on the west coast by 1945.

Lilies have held a significant place in world history because of their aroma, grace and beauty. From ancient Crete to the flower shop down the street, people always regard the lily as “the pure flower.”

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