Recognized by its brown-mottled leaves (a characteristic that is the basis for two of the common names for this plant, deer tongue and brook trout), this is one of the most common spring ephemeral wildflowers. It is found in sizable colonies spreading by stolons. Many spring wildflowers offer a reward to their pollinator. Trout lily is one of them. Unlike some other ephemerals such as hepatica and bloodroot (Saguinaria canadensis), trout lily produces nectar and is pollinated by ants, bees of several families, and blowflies. Field experiments have confirmed that the more successful trout lilies are those that are cross-pollinated. After a seed is planted, it will take up to seven years to make a mature plant and only plants with two leaves will flower. Trout lilies grow best in a deciduous woodland environment where they receive filtered light in the spring. They prefer humus rich soil
Native Americans used trout lily in a variety of ways depending upon the cultural practices of the individual tribe. Iroquois women ate raw leaves for contraceptive purposes; the Cherokee chewed the root and spit it into the water to attract fish. A medicinal tea was prepared from the leaves and was used for fevers, ulcers and swollen glands.
You will find the trout lily in bloom at the Botanical Center if you follow the path past the daffodils that are displayed under the lacebark pine trees.
Learn more at Sierra Potomac's website.
Photos by Sue Dunn