poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Erythronium americanum

Trout-lily (Erythronium americanum Ker)

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Two weeks ago, we had a memorable drive and hike along the South Branch Dunbar Stream, north of Fredericton.  The wet hardwoods along the intervale areas of the stream were green with understory plants and dotted with spring wildflowers.  One of the plants growing there in profusion is the Trout Lily.  The Trout Lily is colonial, covering slopes in rich, moist hardwoods.  Its red and green mottled leaves grow thick on the hummocks, beside the Wood Anemone and Purple Trillium.  The area where we were hiking was not far from the stream and there was evidence it had been flooded earlier in the year.

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum Ker) is also known as the Dog’s Tooth Violet, Yellow Adder’s-tongue, Fawn-lily, and, in French, ail doux.  Its generic name is from the Greek erythros meaning ‘red’, a reference to the purple-flowered European species.

The Trout Lily was barely beginning its blooming when we were there, but it will be almost over by now.  The flowers usually bloom from March to May.  They are yellow and lily-like, with six divisions.  The petals curve backward as they mature.

The young leaves are edible but should only be gathered if they are very abundant in order to conserve the species.  To prepare the leaves for eating, clean them, boil them for 10 to 15 minutes and serve with vinegar.  The bulb-like ‘corm’ is also edible; it should be cooked about 25 minutes and served with butter.  Again, the bulbs should only be gathered if the plant is very plentiful, and only a small percentage of the plants should be harvested to enable the plant to thrive.  Also, the usual warning applies, only harvest if you are absolutely certain of the identification.



Trout Lily

(Erythronium americanum Ker)


on a hike in the hardwood

north of the Dunbar Stream

you discover Trout Lily in profusion

mottled purple, overlapping

as the scales of adder, dinosaur or dragon


you know these plants as edible

the leaves a salad, or pot-herb

and, deep underground, the corm

flavoured like garlic


you fall to your knees

to dig, to gather

and hesitate,

examine your motives –

you, with two granola bars in your knapsack

and a bottle of water from Ontario



©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
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