Almost anybody who has noticed a lily (Lilium spp.) In blossom would tell you they’ve six colorful petals, but they’d be mistaken. Like other blossoms, the lily includes both sepals and petals. The lily’s sepals and petals are the exact same color, form and size, creating what looks to be a flower with six petals. Technically, lilies have only three true petals.
Sepals are the region of the flower that covers the petals when the flower is at the budding stage. The purpose of the sepal is always to guard the petals from predators and weather, such as insects. Normally, sepals are green and look like leaf. Once the flower opens, the sepal typically rests around the petals, such as the little green ‘leaves’ in the foundation of rose. But, in regards to lilies, the sepals are the exact same color and texture as the inside petals. When the bud opens, it’s almost impossible to tell which will be the petals and that are sepals.
Petals are generally colorful, fragrant and might produce nectar. The purpose of petals is to entice pollinators to the flower. Normally, flowers grown in flower beds are grown for their colorful petals, which frequently form a cluster that we refer to as a bloom or blossom. In the case of this lily, what we call the blossom is really three petals and three sepals.
Because it’s difficult to differentiate the lily petal from the sepal, all six are referred to a tepals. This simply suggests that the petals and sepals are so much alike that they’ve earned their own name. Other flowers, such as tulips and orchids, also have tepals, but many blooms have both sepals and petals that are easy to tell apart. To the average gardener that the gap between petals and sepals might not be significant, but to botanist it’s an important distinction.
Lily petals, or tepals, can be characterized by their form and the method by which in which the blossom is held. Shapes of lily blooms vary from the frequent trumpet-, bowl- and star-shaped to apartment and Turk’s cap. Some lilies face downward, while some might face outward or upward. The lily petals in Turk’s cap lilies curl backward, while the petals from the basin- and star-shaped lilies have a small flare. Most lily petals bend gently across the perimeter.