Identifying trout lily

Trout lily identification. Online Flora of North America. Note nodding flower of E. americanum compared to  upright flower of E. rostratum, and the rounded ovary of E. americanum compared to dimpled ovary of E. umibilicatum.

This project is concerned with American trout lily (Erythronium americanum).  It is one of four trout lily species in eastern North America. You can find it in the springtime woods of much of eastern North America. USA: CT, DE, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, WV, WI.  Canada: NB, NL, NS, ON, PQ (map).

Like the other trout lilies, American trout lily produces green leaves with red or white mottling, and a single flower per (reproductive) plant (see gallery).  Pointers for distinguishing American trout lily from the other three species follow.

American trout lily versus white trout lily (E. albidum)

It’s easy to tell these two apart. American trout lily has yellow flowers, whereas white trout lily has white flowers (hence the common name). White trout lily occurs in AR, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, VA, WV, WI, and southern ON (map).

American trout lily versus beaked trout lily (E. rostratum)

Both species have yellow flowers, but those of beaked trout lily point upwards (erect), while flowers of American trout lily are nodding (point downwards). Beaked trout lily is limited to AK, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, OH, OK, TN, and TX (map).

American trout lily versus dimpled trout lily (E. umbilicatum)

Both species have yellow flowers, and both are nodding, but the ovary and fruit of dimpled trout lily have a ‘dimple’ at the top. The ovary and fruit of American trout lily are rounded at the top.  Terrific pictures of this distinguishing character are available here. Dimpled trout lily occurs in FL, GA, KY, MD, NC, SC, TN, VA, and WV (map).

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