May 24, 2011
I saw today’s photo of a trout lily and it reminded me of the spectacular trout lilies mixed in with spring beauties that I saw this weekend in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Grand Marais. I wondered if I’d ever posted a blog about it to Michigan in Pictures. The answer was yes, but the photographer removed their photo, so it seemed to me that a mulligan was in order!
This great Wild About Gardening feature on the trout lily (Erythronium americanum) says that the name is is derived from the resemblance of its mottled leaves to the coloring on brook trout. This 4-10″ tall wildflower is one of the earliest to bloom in Michigan and is also known as Adder’s Tongue and Dogtooth Violet:
This is a plant that relies more on the spreading abilities of its underground root system (corms) than on seed production from its flowers. In fact, it takes a few years for a plant to be mature enough to produce a flower and seeds. Trout lilies have recruited the help of ants, who eat a nutritious appendage attached to each seed and leave the rest to germinate. If you wish to propagate your trout lilies from seed, you will want to follow nature’s lead, at least as far as temperature is concerned. Keep your seeds moist and give them a few months of warm followed by a few months of cold, similar to the seeds falling on the ground at the beginning of summer and receiving the summer warmth and winter cold before sprouting the following spring. Wildflowers sometimes stagger their germination over several years, so you might want to sow a few extra seeds to avoid disappointment.
These plants will naturally spread by forming vast colonies. Some wild colonies are reputed to be as old as the trees around them — two or three hundred years! Despite its ability to spread, the trout lily is not considered an aggressive spreader but rather a delight to have in one’s garden.
Check this out bigger and in