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Trout lily

Erythronium americanum


Plant Type


Hardiness Zone

3 - 9

Flower Color


Bloom Period

Early spring

Height at Maturity

4 inches - 12 inches

Width at Maturity

4 inches - 12 inches

Sun Requirements

Part shade to full shade after leaves emerge

Soil Type

Rich, moist

About this species:

The gorgeous green leaves of the trout lily are mottled with brown and purple.  This plant emerges in early spring, often before the snow and ice have have left the ground.  About two weeks later a brilliant yellow petalled flower with cinnamon colored stamen appears and persists until summer.  The trout lily is a low growing plant that forms colonies of plants of different ages.

This plant has a few common names, each pointing to some distinguishing characteristics.  "Trout lily" is derived from the mottled leaves to the coloring of the brook trout.  Adder's tongue, another name, refers to the similarity between a snake's tongue and its sharply pointed, unopened purple leaves as they poke through the dense forest litter.

Young trout lilies are flowerless and have only one leaf.  Older plants produce pairs of leaves and a single flower.  As a member of the lily family, the trout lily displays a common characteristic of having three petals and three petal like sepals.  Trout lilies grow best in moist, fertile woods but can adapt to many growing situations.  This plant will disappear in summer and surprise you when the next spring arrives.  It helps to have the area marked so you don't forget where it is.


Key to Label Symbols:

Hollow stems, leaves and roots are sources of shelter for wildlife. Insects may make a winter home under dropped leaves. Other animals may make shelters within the roots of the plant.
Food Source
Birds and other wildlife use the seeds, berries and leaves for their food source. Leaves may be used to help build nests for birds
Nectar Source
Bees, butterflies, birds and some insects use nectar for their food. Pollen is also used by some wildlife.
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