Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily
I went for years without ever seeing a trout lily. They grow low to the ground and come up in the earliest part of spring, when the weather is still cold and unpredictable. Pushing up from under last year’s leaf pack, they are difficult to spot because the leaves are mottled, like the side of a trout, and the flower is small, delicate, and pale yellow. Trout Lilies are also called dogtooth violets, because the underground bulb of the plant is white and shaped like a dog’s tooth.
Depending on the time of day you see them, the flowers may not be open. They close each night, re-open in the morning, and need bright afternoon light to fully open to the reflexed position you will see in some of the photos here.
Last year, I discovered a significant patch of trout lilies on a wooded hillside in Blacksburg, Virginia. There were so many trout lilies in this one location, that you could not walk without stepping on them! They appeared in every size, from the smallest seedlings to relatively large, older plants with wide leaves, and tall flowers. From reading about them, I’ve learned that it can take seven years for a single plant to mature. So, finding a colony of them growing in the wild is something to be treasured.
Below is a collection of trout lily photographs taken in March near Blacksburg, VA. The plants come up, flower, and go to seed–all in about three weeks time. These are true springtime ephemerals!
Click on any photo below to open a slideshow.