Clintonia borealis

Blue Bead Lily

Blue Bead Lily, Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook
Blue Bead Lily
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


Name:

  • Clintonia, after DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), early naturalist and New York governor
  • borealis, from the Greek, boreios (boreios), "from the quarter of the North wind, northern"
  • Blue Bead Lily, from the round, bright blue fruit
  • Other common names include Clintonia, Clinton's Lily, Corn Lily, Cow's Tongue, Yellow Beadlily, Yellow Bluebeadlily

Taxonomy:

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Liliopsida, the Monocotyledons
      • Subclass Liliidae, the Lilies
        • Order Liliales, the Lilies
          • Family Liliaceae, the Lilies
            • Genus Clintonia, the Bead Lilies
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 42903
  • Also known as Dracaena borealis

Description:

  • A rhizomatus perennial lily, 6 "-16"
  • Leaves basal, 2 or 3.
  • Flowers pale yellow, 3 to 8 on leafless stalk
  • Fruit bright round porcelain blue; mildly poisonous to humans.

Identification:

  • A ubiquitous northwoods herb of the forest floor.
  • Field Marks
    • basal, parallel veined leaves
    • prominent blue berries

Distribution:

  • Northern North America, south in mountains

Habitat:

  • Open shade
  • Moist sites in boreal and pine forest

Fire:

Associates:

History:

  • Hunters said to have rubbed their traps with the roots because bears are attracted to the odor.

Uses:

  • Young leaves said to taste like cucumber and are chopped and added to salads, or boiled for 10 minutes and served with butter and seasonings. Older leaves become bitter.

Reproduction:

  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.
  • Flowers May/June
  • Fruit a bright blue berry

Propagation:

  • By rhizome division.

Cultivation:

  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Difficult to grow in the home garden.
  • Not readily available commercially.

Links:

Comments:

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Last Updated on 25 September, 2002