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Other common names for Trout Lily are Dogtooth Violet, Adder's Tongue, and Yellow Snowdrop.
Trout lily's appear in mid to late March in North Alabama, and are often found in large colonies. The plant gets the common name "Trout Lily" from the spotted pattern on the leaves, which look like the pattern on a trout, fish. The common name "dog violet" is a misnomer because the plant is a lily, not a violet. The Trout Lily grows in most of the eastern part of the United States. A similar but rare species is the white trout lily, Erythronium albidum. Which has white petals.
The Trout Lily is one of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom, The plant colonies are usually recognized by the conspicuous and distinctive mottled leaves. Flowering plants have two basal leaves. Leaves can reach 8 inches in length and are as wide as 1-½ inches. The leaves are shinny and molted with dark splotches. The flower grows from a leafless stem. The flower is yellow and has 3 sepals and 3 petals. The inside of the sepals is yellow while the outside is brown. The petals are all yellow the lily like flower opens during the day and closes at night. If the day is warm and bright, the petals (tepals) open very wide and curve backwards (reflexed). There are six stamens in two whorls and the anthers are yellow and purple. The flowering individuals have two basal, fleshy, green leaves mottled with purple. The vegetal form has one basal leaf and does not flower
Trout Lily plants are pollinated by ants. Near the middle of May, the above ground plant will die off. If fertilization took place, ants may disperse the resulting large reddish brown crescent shaped seeds. A live underground bulb will remain and will lie dormant until the next season. Growth of new plants will develop from the bulbs. New plants will also develop from the seeds but this may take up to 7 years to produce a flowering plant. Scarifying the seeds will help germination. Native Americans would eat the cooked bulbs. The plant was also used for various medicinal purposes.
A large stand of trout lily's can be seen on the Wildflower Trail in the Land Trust, near the end of Cleermont Street. The whole hillside is covered with Trout Lily colonies in mid March.
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