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The many names and fascinating history of Lycoris Radiata



spider lilies lycoris radiata
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During this time of year, the beautiful Lycoris Radiata can be seen sprouting up randomly throughout Vicksburg and Mississippi. Most commonly known by locals as red spider lilies, these striking flowers have many different names and are attached to unique lore and history.

These flowers originated in China, Korea and Nepal. They then made their way to Japan and were later brought to the United States. Interestingly enough, these plants can be used to treat snake bites, fever, joint pain, skin diseases, ulcers, swellings, stomach and liver problems, rheumatism, epilepsy and leucorrhea. The bulbs and flowers have been used historically in traditional Chinese medicine, though they are considered toxic to humans and animals.

The Lycoris Radiata goes by many names. In addition to being called “spider lilies” they are also known as “red magic lilies,” and “hurricane lilies.” In Japan they are called, “Higanbana,” meaning, “the flower that blooms during the fall equinox.” The equinox is also known as the day the dead return to the living world. Another name for them is “Manjushage,” meaning, “flower in heaven.” In the States, they have several other names including “surprise lilies” and “naked lilies.” Those names come from the fact that these flowers seem to pop up overnight and bear no leaves, making them seem to be somewhat of a surprise to those whose yards have them.

On a darker note, according to, these lilies are often associated with death, last goodbyes and sad memories. There are other names by which these flowers are called, including the “death flower”, “ghost flower”, “lost child flower” and the “corpse flower.” Among the lore which can be researched, one can find that many people correlate the presence of these beautiful blooms to grave sites and burial grounds.

According to, the flowers were often planted over buried bodies to protect graves from animals. The lilies are poisonous in nature and act as a deterrent to wildlife. To this day, it is believed that where the lilies are present, death has paid a visit. Even in Asia, legend says that they grow wherever loved ones have said their final goodbyes and left earth for good.

Old Buddhist writings allude that red spider lilies guide the dead through Samsara or the rebirth cycle. Some people worry that the lilies are a bad omen and superstitiously avoid bringing them into their homes to avoid bad luck. Others believe they are a good omen that represents the transition from death to reincarnation. Whether they are associated with the journey to heaven or the end of a life cycle, there is no doubt that these striking flowers are tied to some very interesting history and folklore.

What names have you come to know these lovely lilies by? What legends do you connect them to?

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