Dr. S.L. Marbaniang
Most often, in course of discussion or during a sermon, when the term “lilies” is mentioned it connotes purity. That’s why, the phrase, “as pure as the lilies”, is obtained and used. Lilies also signify whiteness. Accordingly, another related phrase, “as white as the lilies”, is analogously used.
The importance and the beauty of the lilies has also been mentioned in the Bible, according to the Gospel of Matthew (6:28-29): “And as for clothing, why are you anxious? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these”.
Factually and interestingly, not all lilies are white. Some of these popular varieties are the red Japanese lilies, the non-white meadow lilies which may be yellow or orange flowers. Tiger lilies are spotted. the regal lilies of China, which grow up to eight feet in height, are white on the inside, purplish on the outside, and yellow at the base. Nevertheless, lilies are the oldest of all garden flowers and their popularity has never dimmed throughout the year. The pure white Easter lilies are the most prominent.
In the Northern Hemisphere, lilies grow wild and their colours and sizes vary from region to region, depending on climate and environment. Many hybrids and varieties have been developed from them. Tulips add hyacinths also belong to the lily family. Though tulips are the natives of Eastern Mediterranean, yet their name is of Persian origin which means “turban”.
However, tulip flowers are synonymous with the western European country of the Netherlands. Moreover, many people likewise think that tulips originated from the low-lying land because, after all, tulips are the national flower of the Netherlands. Besides milk products like cheese and butter, flower bulbs of tulips are the important Dutch exports.
Flower festivals in the cities of Netherlands are a common feature which attract citizens from all walks of life. In the city of Lisse, near Haarlem, on the North Sea coast, more than 700 different types of tulips are displayed every spring. Another important festival is in Vogelenzang of South Holland. About one-third of Netherlands was once upon a time under water. The Dutch reclaimed it from the sea and rivers by constructing dykes to prevent flooding. Almost half the people of this tiny nation now live on the man-made land. Hence the name “The Netherlands” which means “The Low-lands” has been the official name of the country since the 16th century.
The word “lily” was a name given not only to plants of the lily family like tiger lilies and close relatives, but also to a good number of other plants which give out beautiful and interesting flowers. During the time of Jesus Christ in Palestine, many white lilies of the buttercup family grew abundantly on the Mount of Olives and they were quite attractive and fascinating. Others, however, said that the “lilies of the field” referred to in the Bible were the white Madonna lily. Whatever it might be, both these types of lilies are white, representing purity of human character, and awesome.
The real members of the lily flowers grow from underground bulbs. These have a stem at their core and on its surroundings are the tightly packed food-storage leaves. The flower bulbs have beautiful and magnificient composition, and are a slight to behold. The lilies of the field are somewhat bell-shaped or triangular.
Lily flowers generally grow up to the height of common people. Some of the lily varieties, however, can grow very big and tall like ordinary trees. For example, the yuccas which thrive in the dry region of Mexico and southwest United States look like trees which have stiff, pointed leaves and hence known by the name of Spanish bayonet. The largest known variety is the Joshua tree which look funny and peculiar, possessing bristling and brushlike clusters of leaves at the tips of its branches.
Botanists have found a member of the lily family which originates in the Canary Islands, known as the dragon tree. The juices of this species look like the blood of the dragon and hence the name. These types of trees can attain a height of more than 50 feet. Dragon trees have been found to grow well in warm regions too. They can be grown indoors but they do not reach great heights as those outdoors.
The common lilies emit sweet smell, especially when the flowers start to blossom. Unbelievable but true! Onions, garlic, and their kin belong to the lily family. Their bulbs gave out the pungent smell which brings tears to the eyes because of their sulphuric acid property. But these “stinking lilies” are medicinal lilies. They improve general circulation and control blood pressure. They are also used for some respiratory and digestive ailments. These pungent smelling lilies are also useful for health and animals and cattle, especially cows.
Though lilies have been domesticated by humans, still there are some species which grow and flourish in the wild. The woodland trilliums bring colour and beauty to the cold, frosty landscapes. Then there are some types which flowers look like the adder’s tongues or violets which appearance seems to resemble the teeth of a dog and so the name of dogtooth violets. Wild Solomon’s seals with their arching stems, the delicate and marvelous star-of-Bethlehem, the day lilies which are orange-flower and natives of Europe, etc. have spread and prospered throughout the world. These wild lilies adapt themselves very well to the new environment and accordingly change their colours and characteristics for survival.
Hyacinths are also flowers which belong to the family of the lilies. Like the tulips, they too were originally from the Mediterranean region. Their flowers are of bell shape which grow in clusters.
People used to get confused by saying that lilies are ferns. Botanists describe ferns as spore producer whereas lilies reproduce by flowers and seeds. Lilies, however, are feathery possessing small branches which are finely divided. Therefore, on the basis of these characteristics, they tend to mislead the observers as ferns which is nor true. Nevertheless, some of the lily members look like ferns and are also termed as ferns. These are the asparagus ferns, which are popular houseplants due to their graceful and majestic appearance.
Asparagus ferns have some medicinal properties and considered as a herb. Some people also eat the asparagus ferns and give fine taste in cooking. These native plants of the Mediterranean region also grow wild in other areas, preferable the temperate regions of the globe. These plants are very rich in Vitamin A.
The lily flowers are favourite with many people, especially the young. If Holland can earn a lot of revenue from the tulip flowers, the native plant of the Mediterranean, one begins to wonder why not Meghalaya too. Flower experts can utilize their expertise for the development of lily hybrids which can be usefully and beneficially adopted in the State.
A good number of private entrepreneurs have been successful flower farmers. What is needed is a little help at least from the Government, especially in the area of transport and marketing.