Names are important in botany and help us categorize plants by their relationships to one another. Taxonomy, the scientific classification of living things, changes as scientists develop new methods such as DNA analysis for understanding these relationships. All of the plants in this collection were once in the lily family, but new research has moved many of them into the asparagus family. Look at the plant labels to see which family (Liliaceae, Asparagaceae, etc.) that each plant belongs to. We use quotation marks around “Lilies” as a nod to the changing scientific organization of these plants over time.


Los nombres comunes son importantes en botánica y nos ayudan a categorizar las plantas de acuerdo a sus relaciones de parentesco. La taxonomía es la clasificación científica de los seres vivos, la cual cambia a medida que los científicos desarrollan nuevos métodos para comprender estas relaciones; por ejemplo, el análisis de ADN. Todas las plantas en esta colección pertenecieron alguna vez a la familia de los Lirios, pero nuevos estudios han resultado en la reclasificación de varias de ellas dentro de la familia de los espárragos. Observa las etiquetas para identificar la familia (Liliaceae, Asparagaceae, etc.) a la que pertenece cada planta. Utilizamos comillas alrededor de “Lirios” para hacer notar los cambios en la organización científica de estas plantas a lo largo del tiempo.

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The word lily is a great example of the imprecision of everyday language in describing the complexity of the natural world. Its dictionary definition of “a bulbous plant with large trumpet-shaped, typically fragrant, flowers on a tall, slender stem” does not follow the strict rules that scientists use when categorizing and naming plants. To a scientist, lily refers to a specific genus (Lillium), a botanical family (Lilliaceae), and a botanical order (Lilliales). Even more confusing, many plants which were once considered to be part of the Lily order and fit the dictionary description, have recently been moved to the Asparagus order (Asparagales) due to new molecular data which changes the understanding of the evolutionary history of this group, and hence their taxonomic classification. Regardless of the confusing name issues, lilies and their relatives are some of the showiest and most sought after garden plants.

Our “Lilies” collection contains plants that can broadly be considered as “lilioid” in traditional concepts of the group. In scientific terms, the most accurate name for this collection would be the ‘Petaloid Monocots’. For obvious reasons, we feel that “Lillies” is a much nicer name, and fits within the common definition of Lily.  The diversity in growth forms in this garden is stunning, from the large tree aloe to tiny flowering bulbs and everything in between. Highlights include the large-leaved dragon tree (Dracaena aletriformis) and a beautiful stand of naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna).


The UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a promoter of nature at a California land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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