THE WESTERN RED LILY The Western Red Lily (lilium philadelphicum) is a flower that grows in prairie meadows, in ditches or in fields sometimes after cattle have grazed. It is a plant that usually has six red or orange red petals and stands almost knee high in the field. It usually flowers in late June or the beginning of July. In fall, the Western Red Lily stores up all its energy so that it can flower by the summer time. The Western Red Lily is very sensitive to moisture. It does not usually flower if it is too dry, since it conserves (stores) its energy. It is a protected species meaning that it cannot be picked, harmed or damaged in any way. The Western Red Lily is especially protected or taken care of if it is found in Provincial Parks. So if you see a Western Red Lily please admire its beauty and do not touch it. You will know that the plant you are seeing is a Western Red Lily if it looks like the flowers in the poster. Long, long ago Aboriginal people used the Western Red Lily for food and medicine. They roasted the bulbs of the lily and ate them because they tasted very sweet and provided nourishment to the people. The lily was used to make tea by the elders which cured stomach aches, the flu, fever and coughs. If people were bitten by a brown spider, they would crush or chew the flowers and placed them on the bite. The Western Red Lily has no protection from predators. Prairie voles and gophers eat the bulbs. When gophers and voles steal the bulbs from under the ground, some of the scales from the sides of the bulbs fall off and may grow into lilies over time. These animals actually do not know that they are planting new Western Red Lilies. The Western Red Lily is a tasty plant as deer eat the tender shoots of it. What eats voles and gophers? Coyotes, eagles, hawks, etc. What eats deer? Humans. Also, prairie fires burned in the past much more often than they do today. Usually today there are not any fires, except for farmers burning stubble or forest fires. When the prairie fires would burn, the Western Red Lily bulbs were protected in the ground, so they would not burn. However, the grasses shading the Western Red Lily would burn and as a result, more lilies would grow because the grass was not choking them. It was a good time for the lily, as voles and gophers did not bother it either. The voles and gophers were afraid to venture out into the burnt prairie, leaving the protection of the long grass would mean they were vulnerable to predators. Today, humans are disturbing the prairie making it difficult for the lilies to survive. Brome grass (common prairie grass) is becoming abundant and chocking the lily, since there are no prairie fires to ‘refresh’ the prairie grasses. Our summers are hotter and drier, so the lily does not even grow due to our dry soil conditions. The lily will not even make more seeds for producing young lilies in dry conditions. The Western Red Lily are almost becoming extinct (not available/around anymore). We are here to learn more about the Western Red Lily, to investigate what we can do to help (what our job is in all of this) and of course to have some fun doing it!