Yellow Clintonia or Blue-bead Lily

Clintonia borealis  

Yellow Clintonia or Blue Bead Lily
Yellow Clintonia or Blue Bead Lily

Here’s a beautiful mountain wildflower that I’ve found growing in sheltered places beneath the rocky slopes of Bald Knob on Salt Pond Mountain.  The leaves of Yellow Clintonia (or Blue-bead Lily) somewhat resemble robust orchid leaves; they are 6 to 10-inches long, elliptical, and shiny. Each individual plant bears two to five of these large basal leaves. In contrast to most orchids, this plant tends to grow in large, spreading colonies, like the group that you see below.

Yellow Clintonia
Yellow Clintonia in bloom on June 1st near Mountain Lake

The nodding flowers of  Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) are, of course, yellow. Later in the season, these flowers give way to dark blue, bead-like fruit. It is this fruit that gives the plant its second common name, Blue-bead Lily.

Bloom time for Yellow Clintonia is sometime between mid-May and June, depending on elevation, aspect, and yearly weather conditions. Be aware that there is another Clintonia in our area that has white flowers instead of yellow–it is called the Speckled Wood Lily (Clintonia umbellulata) and the bead-like fruit of that species is black. Also, sharing the same locales and general “bloom times” is the smaller, white-flowering Canada Mayflower.

The blue-bead fruit of Yellow Clintonia; image courtesy of the Fungus Guy (Wikimedia)
The ripened “blue-bead” fruit of Yellow Clintonia; this image is not mine;  courtesy of the Fungus Guy (Wikimedia)

3 Comments Add yours

  1. denaminato says:

    I so enjoy your photos, Gloria. The hike we took with you near Blacksburg was delightful and on subsequent hikes we have longed for your botanical knowledge. Enjoy your summer!

    1. gloria says:

      Thanks, Dena! I’ve waited my whole life to finally have names for the plants that I see around me. It has been fun dedicating the time to learning more about the natural world and it has given me a reason to get out more than I otherwise would. I now have a broader “purpose” for my walks in the woods–so that’s fun!

  2. Sharon says:

    Riverbend Park in Great Falls Virginia has leaves right now that resemble these. I’m wondering if these lilies could be found in this area. There are no flowers on them yet. They almost resemble some of the foliage of our beautiful Virginia Bluebells which are blooming in this area now.

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