Just Pictures: Trout Lillies

I spent a lot of time last week out and about, photographing flowers. Normally I’d spend more time writing meaningful content to post, but time is in short supply just now, so for the next few days I’m just going to post pretty pictures of spring ephemerals.

Today: trout lily, both yellow (Erythronium americanum)…

…and white (Erythronium albidum).

On one of those trips I found a second population of white trout lilies, which makes me especially happy, since this species is listed S2/threatened in Maryland.

Compressed (part 2)

Here are some of the showier spring ephemerals to watch for in the Potomac Gorge this week.

In the floodplain close to the river, Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica; left) are approaching peak bloom. Mixed in with them in a few places are Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria; below right), which you might also find on moist, rocky outcroppings.

Trout lilies (Erythronium americanum; above left) like moist soils, too. Generally I see them in the transition areas between floodplain and slopes.

Further upslope are cut-leaf toothworts (Cardamine concatenata; left).

 

On drier slopes watch for scattered patches of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis; below).

 

 

Look for twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla; below) in moist, rocky areas. They like limestone soils, so aren’t as widespread as these other species, but where they do grow they they tend to grow en masse.

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica; below) are just about everywhere.

 

 

 

 

More tomorrow.

More Teasers

Odd weather we’ve had this winter. Unusually cold on average, but with unusually warm days. Plants are emerging and budding up and some are blooming already, as I reported in the last post. Anyway, here’s more of what we can look forward to in the next month or so.

Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf; Berberidaceae)

I usually see these plants in large stands, and all the plants in a stand seem to flower at the same time, but the flowers only last a few days. I’m going to start watching for them in mid-March this year.

Packera aurea (golden ragwort; Asteraceae)

This is the same species I posted a picture of on Wednesday, with the purple buds. Such a perky thing. The first species in the Asteraceae to bloom ’round here.

 

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot; Papaveraceae)

Since bloodroot grows from rhizomes, when there’s more than one plant they’re often in a line.

 

 

Erythronium americanum (trout lily; Liliaceae)

 

 

 

Erythronium albidum (white trout lily; Liliaceae)

 

 

 

 

Trillium sessile (toadshade; Liliaceae)

Honestly my love for this plant comes from that common name. This is peak bloom; the flower petals don’t spread open. Yellow flowering forms can be found near Carderock.

 

Stellaria pubera (star chickweed; Caryophyllaceae)

It’s all about those stamens. And fun fact: each flower has five petals. The petals are so deeply cleft that a single petal appears to be two petals.

 

Thalictrum thalictroides (rue anemone; Ranunculaceae)

In botanical Latin the suffix                “-oides” means “resembling”. So this species is “Thalictrum that looks like Thalictrum”. Thalictrum is “from thaliktron, a name used to describe a plant with divided leaves”.*

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

These will be carpeting floodplains and other very moist-soil areas in less than a month.

 

 

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox; Polemoniaceae)

Wild blue phlox starts blooming at about the same time as Virginia bluebells, but they last longer. It’s a glorious sight when these two and golden ragwort fill the woods.

 

*California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations
A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology
Compiled by Michael L. Charters

Show Me Your Auricles!

Recent chatter on various internet forums and mention of The Trout Lily Project got me interested in learning more about the Erythroniums. Twenty four species of them are native to North America; of these, E. albidum (see yesterday’s post) and E. americanum (pictured in this post) are by far the most widespread. All of the others are west coast or midwest species, with two exceptions: E. rostratum and E. umbilicatum. The latter is found in the southeast, as far north as Maryland.

Maybe.

USDA PLANTS Database shows it present in Maryland, but lacks county-level data. The Biota of North America Project shows it present in Montgomery, Cecil, and Garret counties, while The Flora of North America shows it in the southern part of the state. The Maryland Biodiversity Project has no records for it.

Two characteristics distinguish E. americanum from E. umbilicatum. The latter has a dimple on top of the ovary, where the style attaches, while the former has a persistent style that attaches without a dimple. The other difference is the presence of auricles (“ears”) at the inside base of each tepal of E. americanum; E. umbilicatum does not have auricles.

Also, anther color varies from pure yellow to dark red in E. americanum. There is some thought that E. umbilicatum has more purplish anthers, but this characteristic is deemed unreliable. So to tell the difference, you have to look at the ovaries and look for auricles.

Which is why every time I see a dark-anthered trout lily, I’m down on knees and elbows, glasses off, gently poking back the petals and squinting at the insides.

I would love to be able to submit a record of dimpled trout lily to MBP. So far, no luck. All the trout lilies I’ve looked at have auricles and lack dimples.

Whenever possible I photo-illustrate my posts with my own pictures, but of course I have none of dimpled trout lily. For pictures and more information, go to the link at the start of this post. Also go to the MBP page for American trout lily and scroll down to Bill Harms’ photo of tepals and ovary, then have a look at Carolina Nature’s dimpled trout lily page.

UPDATE fellow blogger and citizen botanist botanybill sent this photo of E. americanum, Thanks for showing us the auricles, Bill!

How to Shoot a Trout Lily

That’s shoot as in photograph, of course, not discharging firearms.

Hike for ten minutes to the one place where you know white trout lily grows. Realize that it’s a cloudy day and the flowers will likely be closed. Get annoyed with yourself when you see them closed and vow to come back on a sunny day.

Next sunny day, hike the ten minutes again. Spend awhile scouting the area to find the best candidate. Praise your luck that it’s growing on a slope up and not too far from the trail. Take a few pictures. Look at pictures on the camera monitor. Realize that the other plants that didn’t seem to be in the way are really in the way. Carefully move the invasive vine out of the picture and shoot again. Realize that the good angle you have for shooting includes some basal leaves of golden ragwort that won’t stay in focus. Look around for a stick to place atop the leaves to get them out of the way without damaging them. Take a few more shots. Realize that the sun has gone behind a cloud and the lovely golden glow is gone.

Review pictures in camera. Realize that the dead stems of last year’s asters are making funny vertical lines behind the lily. Carefully snap off dead stems. Take a few more pictures. Realize that the large dead oak leaf on the ground is reflecting light in a particularly annoying way. Move said oak leaf. Move a few others while you’re at it.

Take a few more pictures. Realize that the golden ragwort leaves popped up again and get them back down with a heavier stick.

Hear hikers approaching. Stand up so you don’t look like a total fool doing a poor approximation of downward-facing dog. Brush dirt off jeans and realize there’s a load of laundry to be washed in your near future. Remember how painful lone-star tick bites are and realize there’s also a shower in your near future.

Re-establish self on ground and try some different angles. Realize that elbows are getting scraped and fetch bandana from daypack to use as cushion. Review pictures again and realize that with new angles come new bits of plant material causing odd lines and reflections and other composition-destroying things. Clear area and try again. Note that sun is back out and shoot like mad while you can.

Decide that you need to better isolate the subject from the background and start playing with aperture settings. Take series of pix from f/4 to f/8. Repeat from different angles.

Stand up and try to work kinks out of neck. Take pictures of something else to clear brain.

Go back to shooting trout lily.

Look at cell phone and realize forty minutes have passed since your first picture.

Take a few more pix of the other trout lilies just in case and carefully replace vines and dead oak leaves and remove sticks from golden ragwort leaves so as to leave no trace.

White trout lily (Erythronium albidum) is listed as S2/threatened in Maryland. USDA PLANTS, BONAP, and the Maryland Biodiversity Project all have different records of where in Maryland it can be found, but they all agree it’s in Montgomery County. I first spotted this patch in 2010, and though I’ve missed seeing the plants in bloom some years, I always visit to check on them.

Did I get the shot I wanted? Not really. But I had a lot of fun trying.

Cloudy Day Observations

I believe this is going to be a drawn-out wildflower season in the Potomac Gorge. In the past few years, I’ve observed that once the flowers start blooming, they bloom fast. The result is a spectacular mass of flowers all open at the same time, but then it ends quickly, too.

This year seems to be different, and I’m guessing it’s because of some early warm weather followed by many days of cool weather. I had a quick look ’round some favorite spots yesterday, and noticed that almost everything had closed up due to the overcast. A few more twinleaf had opened, but only a few.

Slow is not a bad thing. It means more time to find and photograph some favorites.

top: Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) enjoying a shaft of sunlight on Tuesday
bottom: Erythronium albidum (white trout lily) closed for the day on Thursday

Variations on a Theme: Trout Lily

20150416-20150416-_DSC0135

 

Erythronium americanum

20150416-20150416-_DSC0410

 

 

 

 

Erythronium albidum
 

 

Both of these species are known by the common names trout lily, fawn lily, adder’s tongue, and dogtooth violet, with or without the adjectives “white” or “yellow” in front.  (Think I’ll just stay with Erythronium.)  The names trout lily and fawn lily come from the speckles on the leaves.  The name dog-tooth violet comes from a similar species native to Europe (E. dens-canis), whose bulb is said to resemble a dog’s tooth.  I have no idea if adders have speckles on their tongues, nor am I going to conduct field research to find out.

20150416-20150416-_DSC0140

Like so many other flowering plants at this time of year, the Erythroniums are spring ephemerals found in moist, rich woods.  They grow in colonies by the hundreds, but only a few plants in a patch will flower in any year.  I’ve read that it takes 3 to 4 years, or up to 7 years, for a plant to reach maturity and flower.

20150406-20150406-_DSC0047

E. albidum can be found over most of the eastern part of the country (not in New England or some of the southern states), and is said to be more common in some areas than E. americanum is.  It’s threatened in Maryland.

E. americanum can be found almost everywhere east of the Great Plains (except Florida), and is threatened in Iowa.

A third species, E. umbilicatum, can be found in Maryland, but I’ve never seen it.  Twenty one more species of Erythronium (all natives) are found in the midlands or west coast.

20150416-20150416-_DSC0138

(this post is dedicated to my friend Denise, because the graceful form of trout lilies reminds me of ballerinas)