This herbaceous perennial plant consists of 1 or 2 basal leaves and a
single-flowered inflorescence up to 6" tall. The basal leaves are 2½-6"
long and ½-2" across; they are ascending to erect, elliptic-lanceolate
in shape, and smooth (entire) along their margins. The upper leaf
surface is mottled pale green and brown or greenish brown, while the
lower surface is
solid medium green; both surfaces are glabrous and the lower surface is
often glaucous. The petioles of these leaves are relatively long, but
they are located mostly or entirely underneath the ground surface.
Immature shoots are
single-leaved and they produce no flowers, while mature shoots have two
leaves and they are single-flowered. Immature shoots are more common
than mature shoots.
inflorescence has a long flowering stalk that
is terete, glabrous, and light green to pale reddish brown. This stalk
is mostly erect or ascending, but it nods downward at its tip where the
flower occurs. The nodding flower is ¾-1¼" long, consisting of 6 yellow
tepals, 6 stamens, and an ovary with 3 erect stigmata. Initially, the
tepals are barely separated from each other, but as the flower matures
they become strongly recurved, exposing the reproductive organs. These
tepals are narrowly elliptic-lanceolate in shape, and they are often
tinted red or reddish brown along their outer sides. The
stamens are about ½" long and their anthers are yellow or yellow-brown.
The blooming period occurs during mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks.
Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by obovoid seed capsules that are
about ½" in length or a little longer. These capsules are glabrous and
their apices are truncate to rounded. At maturity, these capsules
divide into 3 parts to release their seeds.
The root system consists of
a corm with fibrous roots underneath, and 0-3 stolons. The stolons
extend below the leaf litter, creating clonal offshoots from the mother
plant. As a result, colonies of plants are often formed,
consisting largely of immature shoots.
preference is dappled sunlight to medium shade, more or less mesic
conditions, and loamy soil with leaf litter and decaying organic
matter. Most growth and development occurs during the spring before the
trees fully develop their vernal leaves. This wildflower adapts readily
to the shade of various deciduous trees. It takes several years of
development (typically about 8 years) before individual plants will
flower in a typical woodland setting.
Range & Habitat:
native Yellow Trout Lily is occasional in southern Illinois, while in
the rest of the state it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution
Outside of southern Illinois, it is largely restricted to the eastern
half of the state. Illinois lies toward the western range limit of this
plant; it is more common further to the east. Habitats include rich
woodlands, wooded bluffs, rocky woodlands, and banks of streams. Yellow
Trout Lily is found in deciduous woodlands, where Sugar Maple (Acer
), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia
and other deciduous
trees are present.
The nectar and pollen of
the flowers attract largely bees, including bumblebees, Mason bees, and
Andrenid bees. One bee species, Andrena
, is a weak oligolege
(specialist pollinator) of Erythronium
(Trout Lilies). Like
several other woodland wildflowers, the seeds of Yellow Trout Lily are
distributed in part by ants, which are attracted to their food
appendages. Because the leaves of this plant are relatively small and
inconspicuous, they are browsed by White-tailed Deer to only a limited
extent. The mottled pattern of the leaves helps to disguise them from
such mammalian herbivores as they lack color vision.
A deciduous woodland at Jim Smith's farm in
Vermilion County, Illinois.
This is the
only yellow-flowered Trout Lily (Erythronium
in Illinois, making it
easy to identify. The other two species of Trout Lily within the state,
Trout Lily) and Erythronium
(Prairie Trout Lily), have either white flowers or bluish
flowers. Both the flowers and foliage of Yellow Trout Lily are quite
attractive, although the blooming period is rather short and most
plants fail to flower during any given year. In Illinois, Yellow Trout
Lily is much less common than White Trout Lily. However, in states
further to the east, the reverse is true: Yellow Trout Lily is more
common than White Trout Lily.