The Spring Ephemerals, part 4: Trout Lilies and Toadshade

I love all the spring ephemerals; can’t say which are my favorites. But trout lilies are way up there.

Of the twenty some species of Erythronium, two are found in Maryland (maybe three depending on which authority you consult): E. americanum (yellow trout lily) and E. albidum (white trout lily). The latter is listed S2/threatened by the Maryland DNR. I figured I’d miss seeing both this year, but a little luck and persistence led me to a single white one blooming, and in the process I found a hillside covered in yellow ones (I stopped counting at 35). Here are a few pictures.

I know of two spots where white trout lilies grow. I spent more than an hour searching one of those areas after someone posted a picture of a white trout lily blooming. Couldn’t find it. Hiked to another area, shot the yellow trout lilies, then decided to go back for one more look. Pulled out my phone and searched for the picture, and sure enough, there were enough clues in it that I was able to narrow my search to a small area. Et voila! The one shown here in bud was from the other location, the day before.

Toadshade is a species of trillium, T. sessile (Melanthiaceae). The three maroon petals stay closed; the plants shown here are in full bloom.  

What’s Up? Yellow

Still no time to write anything substantial. Here are some yellow flowers, now (or recently) blooming in the Maryland piedmont.

 

 

a yellow haze of spicebush flowers (Lindera benzoin; Lauraceae)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

another flowering shrub, leatherwood (Dirca palustris; Thymelaeaceae), S2/threatened in Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

trout lilies (Erythronium americanum; Liliaceae) will be blooming for another week or so in the Potomac gorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corydalis flavula (short-spurred corydalis or yellow fumewort; Papaveraceae)

 

 

one very early sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia; Liliaceae); watch for more in the next week or so in the gorge, maybe a week after that further north and west in the piedmont

 

 

masses of golden ragwort (Packera aurea; Asteraceae) are blooming now along the Potomac; watch for them on the eastern part of Billy Goat C

 

 

smooth yellow violet, aka yellow forest violet  (Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula; Violaceae)

 

Quick Carderock Update

I had a quick look around the Carderock area on Friday (March 29), and saw the following plants blooming or budding. Also had fun taking closeup shots.

Arabidopsis lyrata (lyre-leaved rockcress): a few flowers  –>

 

Boechera laevigata (smooth rockcress): buds
Cardamine angustifolia (slender toothwort): buds

<–Cardamine concatenata (cut-leaf toothwort): flowers

Claytonia virginica (spring beauty): lots of flowers
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches): a lot of buds, a few flowers

 

 

Dirca palustris (leatherwood): full bloom –>

 

 

 

<–Erythronium americanum (trout lily): gobs of leaves; 5 flowers

Lindera benzoin (spicebush): flowers

 

 

 

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells): lots of buds, just a few open flowers    –>

 

 

 

<–Micranthes virginiensis (early saxifrage): full bloom

The next few weeks should be spectacular.

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!