Just Trout Lilies… — 2018-02-25

The Dimpled Trout Lily is one of the first wildflower species in our area to bloom. Walter Ezell and I decided to check out a couple of upstate South Carolina preserves to see if the Erythronium umbilicatum or Dimpled Trout Lily had come into bloom. I have seen it in bloom as early as late January, but that was far before its usual bloom date. So, we traveled about 1 hour away to one of our favorite spots for this wildflower. Here is an example of the flower:

Dimpled Trout LilyDimpled Trout Lily

Another common name for this wildflower is Dog-tooth Violet. Well, it is obviously not a violet, but the Dog-tooth portion of the common name comes from the appearance of the underground bulb. Here is a shot I took a couple of years ago of the entire plant, including the white bulb:

Dog-tooth Violet -- entire plant

Upon arriving at the site in Greenville County, we walked a short distance along the trail and began to see a few of the flowers scattered among the dead ferns and brown leaves on the forest floor. This particular site has thousands of plants, but few are in bloom at any one time, unlike some of the other southern populations. It is unusual to see more than two or three blooming plants within several feet of each other at this site, but they usually bloom earlier here than at any of the other sites I visit.

Here are some shots of the flowers we saw during our visit:

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

Dimpled Trout Lily

Dimpled Trout Lily

Some of you may have noticed that the stamens come in a variety of colors from reddish-brown to bright yellow. There was a study done a couple of years ago attempting to find a correlation between stamen color and pollinator attraction. Here and here are the results:

It is still a puzzlement to me why there is a variation in stamen color. In any case, I don’t think it makes a bit of difference in the beauty of these flowers.

We finished up at the first site, and I thought of another site whose flowers generally bloom a few weeks later in the year. We packed our gear and headed down the road another 10 miles (16 km) or so to a Nature Conservancy site in Pickens County. It was a bright day with abundant sunshine, so I knew that if there were any buds ready to open, they would be apparent. We parked, gathered our gear, and headed to the trailhead.

There is a large population of Dimpled Trout Lilies just as you approach the gate on the trail. Unfortunately, as I had suspected, none of them were in bloom. We walked down the trail a bit and began to see flowers scattered here and there, but still, we were too early in the season to witness a mass bloom. Here is one of the open flowers we saw at this site:

Dimpled Trout Lily

We finally ended up walking to the end of the rather short trail looking for other good photographic opportunities. At the end of the trail, I spotted what is my favorite view of these flowers — the silhouette of the flower on one of its leaves.

When the sun is lower in the sky (it was afternoon), and it is not obstructed by trees or clouds, the flower makes a perfect shadow/silhouette on the leaf. I managed to find two such occurrences. Here are the images:

Flower shadow on leaf

Flower shadow on leaf

Our decision to drop what we were doing at home and visit a couple of upstate preserves paid off. Although the display of wildflowers was not what it will be in a couple of weeks, it satisfied our need to shed the “cabin fever” that had descended upon us over the winter. I realize that some of you, especially those in the north, still have snow on the ground, but Spring will be here for you before you know it. Maybe this will give you some hope to see those early Spring ephemerals in your neck of the woods.

Until next time,



  • Carol A.

    I look forward to seeing the ones here! There is hope for winter’s end! Thanks, Jim!

    February 26, 2019
  • sonnia hill

    Jim, these are wonderful. Such gorgeous colors.

    February 26, 2019
  • Kim Hulsey Blankenship

    W ill chevk out the bottom land of Bowers Cove here. In need of some bright wildflowers after the grey February.

    February 27, 2019

    Thanks, Jim, for an early preview of the wildflower season!

    March 01, 2019
  • Daniel McClosky

    This is therapeutic for those of us up north. Thanks! Those shadow silhouette photos are particularly beautiful.

    Do you know of any sites where the two yellow trout lily species grow together?

    March 03, 2019

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