Lilies: Deadly Beauty

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You may wonder why I’ve gone for such a dramatic-sounding title, especially as lilies don’t pose us a threat. But if you own a cat (or it owns you), you’ll probably know what my reason is. Lilies, especially their beautiful, golden-yellow pollen, are a deadly threat to cats.

If a cat gets lily pollen on its fur, perhaps while brushing past the flowers, and then licks it off, the cat can suffer severe kidney damage which can be fatal. (The other parts of the lily plant are also highly toxic, but less likely to be ingested by a cat…unless it has a habit of nibbling plants.)

Lilium regale – the regal lily – is tall and beautiful.

When I had my first two cats, I had no idea about the damage lilies could do them and I did actually have some lilies growing in a large tub. They were Lilium regale, which is tall, so the cats didn’t get close to the flowers. Even so, the thought of what might have happened if some of the pollen had fallen on them makes me shudder!

Other members of the lily family are equally toxic to cats. Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) and Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum) can all cause damage that needs to be treated by a vet immediately to try to save the cat’s life.

We have two cats here, so I don’t grow any lilies in the garden now. But if I see them growing in gardens I visit, I love to photograph them. The lilies you see here were growing in Fullers Mill Gardens. (Just a few of their lovely collection.)

Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum)