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Nemastylis floridana, Celestial Lily

Nemastylis floridana, Celestial Lily

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Nemastylis floridana, Celestial Lily (Happy-hour Flower)

As it name suggests, Celestial lily (Nemastylis floridana) is a heavenly little wildflower found in open, sunny, wet flatwoods and freshwater marshes and swamps. Though they have some drought tolerance, they prefer moist conditions during the summer and early fall. Flowering occurs August through October and attracts mostly bees.

The plant is endemic to peninsular Florida. Once common, it is now a state-listed endangered species, largely due to loss of habitat and fire suppression. It is the only species of Nemastylis to occur in Florida.

Celestial lily’s bluish to purple flower is composed of a 6-parted perianth, with 3 petals and 3 sepals that are wide-spreading. Stamens are thick, bright yellow and number 3. Anthers are twisted. The style is whitish and split into 6 threadlike branches. Basal leaves are few, long (12–18 inches) and grass-like. Stem leaves are reduced. Stems are thin and may grow to 2½ feet tall. The fruit is an oval capsule.

The genus name Nemastylis is from the Greek nema, meaning “thread,” and stylos, meaning “pillar” or “rod.” It refers to the flowers threadlike style.

Family: Iridaceae (Iris family)
Native range: Occurs mainly in the St. John’s River basin counties, with localized populations in Pasco, Polk, Lake, Martin, Palm Beach and Broward counties
To see where natural populations of Celestial lily have been vouchered, visit
Lifespan: Perennial
Soil: Moist to wet, well-drained soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: up to 2½’ tall
Garden tips: Celestial lily is not commercially propagated. Visit a natural area to see it.

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