First blog post of 2018: Visit to a state Heritage Preserve for Dimpled Trout Lilies — 2018-02-18

Finally! This winter’s Cabin Fever spell is broken! Lately, I’ve been quite envious of my photography buddies in Florida for their ability to photograph early season wildflowers, many similar to those that are found in our region.

This past Sunday, Walter Ezell and I drove 35 miles (56 km) to one of my favorite state Heritage Preserves: Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve in upper Greenville County, South Carolina. Around this time of year, one of our earliest blooming wildflowers, Erythronium umbilicatum or Dimpled Trout Lily, sometimes called Dog-tooth Violet comes into bloom. This tiny, 3/4-inch (1.9-cm), bright yellow wildflower manages to poke its head through the leaf litter to grace the forest floor with its delicate beauty.

This particular location is not known for its masses of blooming lilies; rather the plants are scattered just off the trail and offer the opportunity to get full plant images separated from the other lily plants. At this site, the flowers bloom as soon as a month earlier than at other similar sites in the upstate of South Carolina. I’ve been to locations where getting a clear full-plant image is almost impossible due to the close proximity of other blooming plants. In another month or so, I will visit another location, Nine Times Preserve, in a neighboring county, where there are thousands of Dimpled Trout Lilies, crowded in and among themselves.

Here is an example of this wonderful flowering plant:

Dimpled Trout Lily Dimpled Trout Lily

Note the fresh, yellow anthers. A large percentage of Erythronium umbilicatum at this site have either brown or purplish-brown anthers. It was once thought that any plant with yellow anthers was Erythronium americanum or American Trout Lily, but this is not the case. Both species exhibit a wide range in anther color. Here is an example of a Dimpled Trout Lily with purplish-brown anthers:

Dimpled Trout Lily with purplish brown anthers

This image also shows a feature that I attempt to capture whenever it makes itself available: the shadow of the flower on one of its two leaves. Here is another one of those with a shadow, although not as distinctly presented:

Dimpled Trout Lily

Note in the above image that the anthers have begun to dehisce and release their contents of pollen. This flower is perhaps a couple of days old.

I mentioned previously that the Dimpled Trout Lily plants in this area are fairly widely separated. Only a small percentage of them bloom in any one particular year. The leaves are rather fleshy and succulent, and the coloration is mottled/marbled. The leaves are in one sense like snowflakes — no two of them are alike. Here is a shot of some plants that will not bloom this year:

Non-blooming Dimpled Trout Lily plants

There were a few plants whose buds had not quite opened or were just beginning to unfurl. Dimpled Trout Lilies close in the evening and do not fully open on dark or cloudy days. We arrived about 1:30 pm, and the sun was out in full force — perfect for us to find open flowers. Here is an example of an unopened bud and an opening flower:

Dimpled Trout Lily bud Opening flower

Here are several additional images of the Dimpled Trout Lily flowers we were able to photograph:

Dimpled Trout Lily Dimpled Trout Lily
Dimpled Trout Lily Dimpled Trout Lily
Dimpled Trout Lily Dimpled Trout Lily

There were a few other non-blooming species of interest beside the trail. One of these is an orchid with a single, winter leaf. This is the leaf of Tipularia discolor or Crane-fly orchid. It’s winter leaf appears in late October or early November and withers before the plant blooms in mid-July. Its early appearance ensures that the plant will receive sufficient sunlight when the leaves fall in autumn and remain off the trees during the winter. The leaves of this species are easily identified by inspecting the underside of the leaf and noting the purple color:

Leaves of the Crane-fly orchid

Another of my favorite winter plants is Huperzia lucidula or Shining Club Moss. This plant does not have flowers, but reproduces sexually by spores and asexually by tiny gemmae which form at the leaf axils and fall to the ground to form new plants:

Shining Club Moss

As we were ready to leave, I spotted something strange in one of the vernal pools near the trail. I believe this to be the egg masses of a salamander or frog. Since the eggs are fresh and do not show the developing embryo, I cannot determine what creature laid them in the water. Perhaps one of my knowledgeable readers will know…

Update: Several of my readers have agreed that these are the egg masses of Ambystoma maculatum or Spotted Salamander, a rather common critter in our area. Thanks, folks!

Salamander or frog eggs

Well, this is a good beginning to what I hope will be a fruitful blogging season. The next few months will present many opportunities to photograph a wide variety of wildflowers in our area of the Southeast. I hope you will continue to join me on these adventures, even if it is only through my blog posts.

Stay tuned…

–Jim

15 comments


  • Lovely photos like always! I am very envious as spring is still at least a month away in Upstate NY.

    February 19, 2018
  • Ann McCormick

    Great pictures and info!

    February 19, 2018
  • Spectacular as usual. Those are Spotted Salamander egg masses. My favorite critter of all time!

    February 19, 2018
  • John Fowler

    Another good trip with fine photos.

    February 19, 2018
  • Adair Pickard

    Beautiful photos of a beautiful plant. Now I feel like Spring is very near. Thanks for the joy.

    February 19, 2018
  • Jerry Daniels

    I also enjoy your blog! We are a couple of months away
    from any flowers as we have over a foot of snow on the
    ground in northern Minnesota…

    February 19, 2018
  • sonnia hill

    What beauties and welcome to your blogs.
    Sonnia

    February 19, 2018
  • Rudy Riggs

    I was happy to see your first blog of the year, as I have missed your beautiful photography during this cold winter.

    February 19, 2018
  • Philip Reinhart

    Very interesting and nice photos.

    February 19, 2018
  • Gena Todia

    Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing, Jim.

    February 19, 2018
  • Walter K Ezell

    I want to get a good look at those salamanders

    February 20, 2018
  • John Robinson

    Thanks for the exquisite compositions! Is that a spotted salamander in the photo?

    February 20, 2018
  • Sue Watts

    So lovely!!

    February 20, 2018
  • Lee Casebere

    I’m happy to see that your blog has started up for the new year, and it’s nice that spring has started up as well down there. I remember the huge numbers of dimpled trout lily at Nine Times Preserves. It will be interesting to see if you find that odd colored one there again this year.

    February 24, 2018
  • Max Smith

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a trout lily with bright yellow anthers. I will be keeping a close eye out for that when spring finally arrives here.

    February 25, 2018

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