The lilium family contains more than 110 species of lily, an herbaceous flowering plant that can be found in a wide ranging palette of colors, including a spectrum of whites, oranges, yellows, reds, purples, and pinks, and with distinct markings that resemble picotees, spots, and painterly brushstrokes. Lilies are delicate flowers with six tepals and an elegant, aromatic fragrance. Its most popular species include the Tiger lily, the Calla lily, the Madonna lily, Stargazer lily, Easter lily, and Morning Star lily. They are popular as showy garden plants and their bulbs can be eaten as root vegetables (though, in spite of a taste and texture that resembles a potato, they can be quite bitter). However, their beautiful flower, which only blossoms in summer, has led to the lily taking on an important cultural role, capable of expressing a wide range of sentiments when given as a gift. For instance, the lily is the May birth flower as well as the flower used to commemorate a couples 30th wedding anniversary. (The lily of the valley, as a symbol of devotion and humility, memorializes a couples second wedding anniversary.)
But the most common association with lilies is as a gift at funerals, given to express compassion and sorrow for a deceased loved one. White lilies, in particular, signify sympathy and grief as well as chastity and virtue. When given for a funeral, they extend your condolences to the family and communicate both sadness for the loss, but also the restoration of the deceased to a state of purity and innocence. That spiritual element has long been a part of the lilys cultural significance. The ancient Greeks believed that the white Madonna lily grew directly from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods. In light of that story, lilies can be seen as a representation of humanitys connection to the divine and how all life springs from that source. In modern times, those meanings are all present in a gift of lilies, making it an appropriate choice when honoring the memory of the dearly departed.