Trout Lily

After a 6-month hiatus I am back to posting. My website was down because of hardware problems with my hosting site and software problems with my WordPress theme, but these are all resolved now. It may be a sad commentary on my viewership that no one mentioned it to me. Ah well.

This is the time of year (April) when trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) are in bloom in the Pennypack Preserve. These are another of the woodland wildflowers that escape the ravages of deer predation and are a beautiful harbinger of spring. They come out on sunny east-facing banks along the Creek Road trail near the junction with the Mitchell trail. They are spring ephemerals, producing their leaves and flowers early in the year before the forest canopy leafs out. The flowers are present only briefly and the leaves are gone by summer. They are perennials and survive the remainder of the year as an underground bulb. Since the bulbs can reproduce asexually by producing new bulbs off the original, they often appear in colonies.

Only a small percentage of flowers produce seeds. Like many other wildflowers in the preserve, they practice myrmecochory, meaning the seeds can be dispersed by ants. See these posts on greater celandine and bloodroot for further discussion of this interesting phenomenon.

The name “Trout Lily” refers to the mottled appearance of the leaves which vaguely resembles the markings on the brook trout. Another common name “Dogtooth Violet” is inappropriate because it is a lily, not a violet. Dogtooth refers to the shape of the underground bulb.


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