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White Trout Lily


Common Name: White Trout Lily

Latin Name: Erythronium albidum

[Pronounced: "air-ith-RONE-ium AL-bid-um"]

Type of Plant: Perennial Forb

Identification Helps: Only white trout lily in Ohio, with inverted flower as shown, 4 - 6 inches tall, with one or two basal leaves, usually slightly mottled as with the leaf in the lower left. Blooms early, usually before or just during tree leaf bud burst.

Preferred Growing Conditions in the Wild: White Trout Lily grows (but not exclusively) in savanna and prairie-edge forests, often in massive colonies. The species does not grow on open, true prairies, but is commonly found (at least in northern Ohio) in prairie-associated savannas, oak groves, and prairie-edge forests.

Preferred Soils: Found usually in slightly acid forest soils with high humus content.

Seasons of Growth and Bloom: Blooms in early to mid spring.

Natural Distribution in Ohio: Found in typically in northern, southwestern, extreme southern, and east central Ohio counties.

Description and General Information: Most botanical authorities would not consider this to be a prairie plant, and strictly, this is so. But examination of the plant's occurrence, at least in northern Ohio areas, shows that it has a close affinity to adjacent prairies. In Erie County, for example, it is found in all forests in the Firelands Prairie region. It is (or was) particularly common in oak savannas and other prairie woodlands, while it is uncommon or absent from non-prairie woodlands.

A very closely related species, Erythronium mesochoreum, is found in prairie states to the west, where the plant is named Prairie Trout Lily. As with White Trout Lily in Ohio's prairie areas, E. mesochoreum is found in savannas and prairie woodlands in Illinois.

What could be E. albidum's connection to Ohio prairies? It may well be its ability to persist and thrive in the presence of spring fires that were annually set by Native Americans in adjacent prairies, which then burned into adjacent forests and savannas.