This post is sure to attract some wandering souls who are into my husband’s favorite pastime, fly-fishing, but since the seasons intersect, it seems apt. One of my favorite flowers from our trip to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve was the shy, demure trout lily, Erythronium americanum. Like most wildflowers, this is not gonna blow you out of the water with its showiness. One of the cool things about the preserve is that, unlike in, say, a botanical garden, you have to hunt for your prey. You may find a stand of these tucked up against a tree trunk, or hiding in the shade of a rock. I like that, though; it’s more of a surprise to stumble on one of these little beauties than to come across a fifty-foot swath of yellow tulips at Longwood Gardens. Besides the familiar yellow, there are white and pale pinky-purple versions, too, as well as hybrids bred for more impact and size.
Trout lilies are really in the lily family and are mostly native to North America. They’re also known as fawn lilies, dog-tooth violets and adder’s tongue, but I like “trout lilies,” and I can see where they got the name. The leaves are mottled in the same sorts of patterns as a trout. You can actually cook and eat the leaves (in a pinch), and the roots can be ground into flour, if you’re that sort of whole-earth gardener. I’m not. And I don’t think trout lilies would do well at my house; the soil is too dry, and there’s not enough shade. But it surely was delightful to walk through the woods at Bowman’s Hill and let out little cries of delight when we happened upon these. Good things really do come in unassuming packages!
Photo by Kaldari.