Erythronium americanum Ker Gawl.
Yellow Trout-lily, American Trout-lily, Eastern Trout-lily, Yellow Dogtooth Violet, Adder's Tongue
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
USDA Symbol: eram5
A pair of brownish-mottled leaves sheath the base of a stalk that bears a solitary, nodding flower, yellow inside, bronzy outside. This colony-forming perennial sends up two, 3-6 in., elliptic, maroon-mottled leaves and a slightly taller stalk bearing a single, nodding, yellow flower. Petals and sepals are bent backwards exposing six brown stamens. Single-leaved, non-flowering plants also occur, either too young or too crowded to flower.
Recognized by its brown-mottled leaves, this is one of our most common spring ephemeral wildflowers, and it is found in sizable colonies. The common name ("Dogtooth Violet") refers to the toothlike shape of the white underground bulb. The name "Trout Lily" (a more suitable name since the flower is not a Violet) refers to the similarity between the leaf markings and those of the brown or brook trout. The White Dogtooth Violet (E. albidum) has narrow, mottled leaves and white, bell-shaped flowers, often tinged with lavender on the outside. It is found from southern Ontario to Georgia, west to Kentucky, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and north to Minnesota. Minnesota Adder's Tongue (E. propullans), found only in Minnesota, has pink flowers and produces a small bulb midway up the stem.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 8 inches tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , QC
Native Distribution: N.B., s. Que & s. Ont., s. through mts. to n. GA & to n.e. OK
Native Habitat: Moist, deciduous woodlands & openings
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Trout lily must be planted where it will receive ample sun in early spring. It makes an attractive seasonal ground cover. A leafy wintercover, left in place in spring, is desireable. Clumps of plants that include many leaves and few flowers should be divided.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationPropagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: The easiest way to propagate is by marking the plants in the spring and digging the offsets in late summer. Set these small bulbs at least three inches deep and mulch well. Propagation from seed takes a long time. Collect it in the spring.
Seed Collection: Seeds mature 6-8 weeks after flowering. By then the leaves have withered so it is best to mark the plant while it is in flower. Seed capsules are light green and oval in outline. Stored seeds quickly lose viability.
Seed Treatment: Seeds should be planted fresh.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Erythronium americanum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Erythronium americanum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Erythronium americanum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-08
Research By: TWC Staff