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What Is a Trout Lily?

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  • Written By: Nya Bruce
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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A trout lily is a single-flower plant that is a part of the lily family. It is a wildflower that is native to North America and parts of Europe. It often grows in forests or wooded areas. There are several different species of trout lilies that are of the genus Erythronium. The two common types are the yellow and white trout lily.

Trout lilies get their name from the appearance of the leaves. Reddish-brown to purple-brown blotches on the leaves look similar to the patterns that are seen on the bodies of certain types of trout. In addition to the trout-like markings, the shape of the leaves may also seem similar to the general body shape of fish. The plant's single flower blooms early spring, anywhere between March and May. This depends on the particular type of trout lily.

Erythronium americanum, or the yellow trout lily, is the most common. The flower consists of six yellow tepals. This is a combination of three petals and three sepals. Sepals are the protective outer part of the flower. When the combination of sepals and petals are difficult to differentiate they are known as tepals.

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Standing roughly four to ten inches tall (10.6 to 25.4 cm), this yellow wildflower is an attractive ground cover. It also has a number of other uses. The flower, bulb and leaves are edible and can be eaten either raw or cooked. It has also been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, including the reduction of swelling and the treatment of ulcers and wounds on the skin.

The white trout lily (Erythronium albidum) is another type of trout lily, this one having flowers that are white. In some cases, the flowers may also have a slight lavender tint. With the exception of its color, it is very similar in appearance to the yellow trout lily. Another type of trout lily, prairie trout lilies (Erythronium mesochoreum), are very similar to the white trout lilies, but with a few exceptions. The leaves of the plant have less of the trout-like markings and are thinner. While the flowers are white, they are also frequently a blue-violet tone.

Certain trout lilies are less common than others. The Minnesota dwarf trout lily (Erythronium propullans) is a smaller version of the white and yellow trout lilies. It is found only in certain parts of Minnesota and is an endangered species. The flowers of this plant are a pale pink and may have as few as four tepals. This differs from other types of lilies which have six tepals.

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