Lilium candidum (popularly known as the Madonna Lily) is a true lily in the Liliaceae family. It is native to Greece, the western Balkans and the Middle East, and naturalised in other parts of Europe (France, Italy, Ukraine, etc.) as well as in North Africa, the Canary Islands, Mexico, and other places.
It forms bulbs at ground level, and unlike other lilies, has a basal rosette of leaves through the winter, which die back in summer. A leafy flower stem, typically up to 1.2 metres high, sometimes up to 2 metres high, emerges in late spring and bears fragrant flowers in summer. Flowers are white, flushed yellow at the base. It has long been cultivated, but is susceptible to virus diseases of lilies, and to Botrytis fungus. One possible way to avoid problems with viruses is to grow plants raised from seed.
The Madonna lily is often described as being the basis of the fleur-de-lis, though the shape of this stylised flower more strongly resembles that of a flag iris. Madonna lilies are depicted in a fresco at the Minoan palace of Knossos. The Madonna Lily symbolises purity for Roman Catholics. Medieval depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary often show her holding these flowers.
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