Trout Lily

Erythronium americanum

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Found in moist, rich areas such as meadows, clearings and deciduous woods. Grows in partial shade.

  • Range

    Grows throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Status

    Stable

Trout lily is a native perennial plant with nodding yellow flowers that bloom in early spring.

Appearance

The trout lily has a single, nodding flower at the top of a short stalk. Flowers are yellow on the inside and bronze-colored on the outside, with six petals that curve upward away from six brown stamens. The flowers bloom in March to May. Mottled brown and green leaves grow at the base of the plant. Young plants have only one leaf, while mature adult plants have two leaves. Trout lilies grow 6 to 8 inches tall.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The trout lily sprouts and flowers in early spring, before new tree leaves grow and block out the sun. Plants grow from a white bulb that has a tooth-like shape
New plants usually grow when underground rhizomes spread and form colonies. Mature plants also spread via seeds. Ants scatter the seeds, eating part of the seed and leaving the rest to germinate.

Did You Know?

  • The name “trout lily” comes from the plant’s mottled leaves, which look like the markings on brook trout. It is also known as the dogtooth violet or adder’s tongue.
  • Some trout lily colonies are 200 to 300 years old.
  • Trout lily leaves and bulbs were once eaten for medicinal purposes as a contraceptive.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Found in moist, rich areas such as meadows, clearings and deciduous woods. Grows in partial shade.

  • Range

    Grows throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Status

    Stable