Lilium candidum

Common name   Madonna Lily
Hebrew name   שושן צחור
أللّغة آلعربيّة   السوسن الأبيض
Family Liliaceae
Petals Connate
Leaf form Simple
Leaf margin Entire
Habitat Heavy soils
צורת הגבעול Round
Life form Geophyte
Distribution in Israel Gallilee, Carmel, נחל כלח (כרמל), נחל כזיב (גליל)
Flowering months
Protected Endangered Nectar plant


Madonna Lily
© Photo: Sara Gold   , May
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Additional information

One of the most beautiful plants originated in the East Mediterranean and transferred to all other parts of the world. It is a rare species that appears in only a few locations on Mt. Carmel and Upper Galilee.
This is a geophyte with a large bulb that produces in the autumn a rosette of long leaves. In the spring a tall stalk grows up carrying bright-green lanceolate leaves. It may reach more than 2 m in height. At its top there are several large fragrant flowers. The white corolla is funnel like with six pointed lobes that form the symmetrical shape of the Star-of-David. At the flower center there are 6 long stamens that release orange pollen in large quantities. Among them is the long pistil. The dry fruit slits open and disperse a large number of small seeds.
Heavy uprooting and picking in the past brought this species to the verge of extinction. Another cause of its decreased abundance is the closure of woody areas due to cessation of goat grazing that was much more common in the past. This closure reduces the amounts of light the plants receive and decrease blooming and seed production.


The image of this flower was found on coins and ornaments from the ancient world. The scholars still debate its mention in the Bible. It is difficult to know if this is the plant depicted in Solomon's Song of Songs (2:1-2) "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens". It does not grow in the Sharon valleys, but it certainly stands out among the thorny bushes on the mountain.
In the Christian tradition this plant is associated with the Virgin Mary, probably because of its brief appearance in the late spring in large strikingly pure white flowers. The Crusaders found it here and sent large amounts of bulbs to Europe where it was introduced into cultivation for ornamental purposes.