- Dog’s-tooth violet
- Dog’s-Tooth Violet
- Planting Partners
- Dog’s-Tooth Violet Care Must-Knows
- More Varieties of Dog’s-Tooth Violet
- Erythronium americanum
- Vegetable Ivory: The Dog’s Tooth Violet
- Growing Dogtooth Violets: Learn About Dogtooth Violet Trout Lily
- What Does a Dogtooth Violet Look Like?
- Planting Dogtooth Violet Bulbs
- Care of Dogtooth Trout Lily
- Trout Lilies, Fawn Lilies and Dog’s-Tooth Violets – The Elegant Erythroniums
- Erythronium americanum
- Trout Lily
Dog’s-tooth violet is known by a host of common names that include yellow trout lily, yellow fawn lily, and yellow adder’s tongue. No matter the name, this native woodland wildflower (which, surprisingly, is not a member of the viole…; family) is a harbinger of spring in the shade garden. It spreads slowly to form colonies of mottled strappy foliage—similar in appearance to the skin of a spotted trout—below stems of nodding lilylike flowers in sunny yellow.
Tuck this tiny spring bloomer into shade gardens, woodland plantings, and shaded areas of rock gardens where it will gracefully greet spring. Thriving in moist or wet soil, it also grows well along stream banks and beside ponds. Plant it on stream banks to help prevent erosion.
Pair dog’s-tooth violet with other spring-blooming woodland wildflowers for a springtime flower show. Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginiana), trillium, and jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) are all great garden companions. Spring-blooming woodland wildflowers often retreat underground in the heat of summer. Plant them alongside perennials that will mask the empty garden spots the spring ephemerals leave behind. Ferns, astilbe, coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea), and hosta are all good mid- and late-season perennial companions for dog’s-tooth violet.
Pair these match-made-in-heaven spring plants together.
Dog’s-Tooth Violet Care Must-Knows
Dog’s-tooth violet grows best in part shade or shade and moist soil rich in organic matter. Plant these tiny corms 2 to 3 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches apart in fall. This is a deeper planting depth than you might expect for such a small bulb, but it is necessary for this plant to overwinter well.
Dog’s-tooth violet blooms in early to mid-spring. Expect the perennial’s mottled, deep-green foliage to die back in midsummer and reappear the following spring. Plants will maintain their foliage longer in moist soil.
See more plants that deer won’t bother.
More Varieties of Dog’s-Tooth Violet
‘Pagoda’ dog’s tooth violet
This cultivar is a cross between two native North American species that produces up to five golden-yellow flowers on each stem. The petals on Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ reflex to reveal a reddish ring at the base and bloom in mid- to late spring. The leaves are thick and veined in whitish green. It grows 1 foot tall. Zones 3-8
‘Purple King’ dog’s tooth violet
Erythronium dens-canis ‘Purple King’ bears reflexed flowers that resemble large cyclamen, with their fuchsia coloring and reddish-brown-throated base. It grows 5 inches tall. Zones 3-8
Erythronium americanum is a North American native wildflower that produces clusters of golden flowers reversed in purplish brown on leafless stems sprouting from mottled foliage. It grows 10 inches tall. Zones 3-8
Erythronium americanum is a low growing plant with two tulip-like, green and purple mottled leaves, the appearance of which led to the common name trout lily. Elegant, 1″ long, yellow flowers rise above the groundcover-forming foliage on delicate bare stems. It is more common, and similar to the Erythronium albidum which is larger and has white flowers.
Under ideal conditions, the dogtooth violet will slowly colonize without becoming invasive. It prefers moist, rich deep soils that will allow it to spread by underground stolons. It is native to deciduous forests and blooms in spring before the new canopy becomes dense. Foliage will die back in summer as the plant enters its dormancy stage. Bloom times can vary from February to April. Zones 4-8
Plants are best left undisturbed until they become over crowded. Easy to propagate by separating corms from mature plants in late summer or fall when dormant. Can be propagated from seed, but new plants can take up to 5 years to produce flowers.
The common name dogtooth violet is a reference to the appearance of the corms which resemble dog teeth. However, this is not a violet but rather a lily. Deer may find the leaves of this plant to be an irresistible early spring treat.
“Most of the people had to work for free or for very little money, and we had to ask for a lot of favors, props and furniture,” Mr. Lanthimos said. “It started with a budget of 250,000 euros,” about $308,000, “but it cost twice as much, if you think of all the people who didn’t get paid and all the things we got for free.”
It may come as no big surprise that the lockdown parenting in “Dogtooth” hits some snags. The father’s unorthodox sexual education for his son, for example, involves bringing home a female guard from the factory. (She’s blindfolded for the car ride.) She eventually introduces what could be called cultural contaminants into the household in the form of videotapes.
In the aftermath “Dogtooth” displays tried-and-true characteristics of the modern art-house shock film: start with a dystopian conceit, then mash together artificially heightened naïveté, sudden violence and perverse reticence. And as the father tries to tighten the familial screws (beyond keeping the telephone hidden in a cabinet), the film further tweaks taboos on incest and brutality toward the defenseless.
“To me it’s like children,” Mr. Lanthimos said. “I think children are really violent with each other often. And if you take that situation to these grown-up people who have remained like children, it escalates. There’s all this tension between them that somehow has to be released.”
What emerges is an ultimately volatile study in the human hunger for experience, and it forms an intriguing pair with Mr. Lanthimos’s previous puzzle of a film. In “Kinetta,” a small group stages scripted re-enactments of accidents and assaults that have occurred around a resort hotel. He seems to be creating a body of work about freakish homemade microcultures in a country whose rich literary patrimony lies at the basis of Western civilization.
It’s a curious project but true to the heart of a filmmaker fascinated (and entertained) by the possibilities of radical experiments in behavior. But Mr. Lanthimos, who next year will direct Chekhov for the national Greek theater and who will revisit the theme of re-enactment in a new film he is working on, called “Alps,” sees older motives in the parents’ behavior in “Dogtooth.”
“For me, to them, they’re doing this thing out of love,” he said. “And they come up with all these ridiculous ideas to protect them and to lie to them so that they can protect them. They think it’s the best thing that they can do for their children. I think that they’re so stupid, that they actually believe that.”
Every garden has some shade and every gardener needs a few special plants to drool over in the odd contemplative moment that makes gardening such a pleasure. Make use of the first and satisfy the second by planting Erythronium dens-canis. Commonly known as dog’s-tooth violet, both names allude to the shape of the tubers – long, pointed, off-white and shiny.
Erythroniums belong to the lily family and, although diminutive – no taller than 10cm – their charisma is more than a match for their bigger cousins. Their early appearance in the garden only heightens my joy at seeing them. First come the beautifully mottled leaves, followed by long, scrolled buds that unfurl in the warm spring sun, curling magically into pretty pink “turk’s-cap” flowers.
The American species, E. revolutum and E. californicum, are loftier beauties. Rising from thick twin leaves, richly marbled in bronze, their pink or white flowers dangle gracefully from 30cm stems. E. californicum ‘White Beauty’ is particularly fine, with large creamy white flowers, each marked with a circle of red – a welcome mat for pollen-seeking insects. The flower stems are red, too. Given that its leaves are dappled green on green, its common name of trout lily is apt.
Yellow is the colour of a new spring and E. tuolumnense, with its glossy green leaves with undulating edges, and E. ‘Pagoda’, whose leaves are sometimes slightly dappled, provide a wealth of rich, yellow flowers on 45cm tall stems. Plant E. tuolumnense as nature intended in the damp margins on a pond.
The best way to buy erythroniums is as growing plants. Sometimes they are sold as dry bulbs but too often they are Rip Van Winkle dormant and cannot be kick-started into life.
Planting in shade is often synonymous with finding a home between the roots of shrubs or trees. The safest damage-limitation method is to investigate with a hand fork before plunging in with the trowel.
As with all planting, the mantra has to be “emulate nature”: give them shade, humus-rich soil – leaf mould or compost – then let them be their own wild selves. As a pack, dog’s-tooth violets are tolerant and will soon make themselves at home, self-seeding freely.
Vegetable Ivory: The Dog’s Tooth Violet
Posted in Around the Garden, Learning Experiences on April 5 2012, by Daniel Atha
Daniel Atha is an Associate Editor of NYBG’s systemic botany journal, Brittonia, and a researcher specializing in floristics, taxonomy, and economic botany. He has taught classes in anatomy and systemics at the Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture and is currently working on a project to develop identifying DNA barcodes for plants of the Northeastern United States.
Despite their reputation for having less-than-perfect breath, dogs do tend to have shiny white teeth, no matter what they eat. But dogs aren’t able to brush their own teeth to keep them shiny, so the next time you’re helping Rover with his dental hygiene, give them a good look, and then dig up a dog’s tooth violet–a beautiful native wildflower now in bloom–remove the bulb coat and note the perfect semblance to Rover’s canines in vegetal form!
Erythronium americanum Ker. Gawl. (Liliaceae) dog’s-tooth violet
These plants are so beautiful it seems a shame to eat them. But we gleefully eat strawberries, squash blossoms … and lamb for heaven’s sake, so why avoid these delicate, delicious plants? Dog’s tooth violets grow naturally in huge colonies, so rooting around and pulling out a few slender bulbs is actually just thinning–what every bulb fancier does lovingly. Go ahead, dig a few out of your woods and try them. You’ll be glad you did.
The dog’s-tooth violet is a member of the lily family and closely related to tulips, though you shouldn’t eat tulip bulbs as they contain toxic glycosides. The family resemblance is clearly betrayed by the violet’s strap-like leaves with parallel veins, six barely differentiated lemon yellow sepals and petals (called tepals), prominent stamens and a three-chambered ovary. There are 27 species in the genus, 23 of which are strictly North American. The other four are found in Japan, eastern Asia, and Europe. Our species divide into two clearly defined groups, one western (Rocky Mountains to the Pacific) and one eastern (Great Plains to the Atlantic). Five species occur in the northeastern U.S., with Erythronium americanum being the most common.
Did you dig some up? Not exactly tulip bulbs, are they? They’re not mastiff teeth either. Think Jack Russel terrier. Anyway… scrape off the fibrous sheath covering the bulb, clean off the dirt, note the toothy gleam and pop the whole thing into your mouth. Just try to forget about the dog slobber.
Does it help to know that in Japan the bulbs of katakuri (Erythronium japonicum) are the basis of katakuri-ko, a tasteless, fine, white starch used extensively in Japanese dishes ranging from soups, sauces, dumplings, and cooked meats? Today, katakuri-ko is made entirely or mostly from potato starch, but if you’re lucky enough to find pure lily-based katakuri-ko, a few ounces will set you back about as much as getting Jack the terrier fitted with gold teeth. Don’t throw out the tops either. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible raw or cooked.
For a hands-on course in the edible weeds so seldom appreciated at the kitchen table, join us for “Edible Weeds of the Northeast” on May 30. Be sure to check out our Adult Education offerings for similar courses coming later in the year.
Growing Dogtooth Violets: Learn About Dogtooth Violet Trout Lily
Dogtooth violet trout lily (Erythronium albidum) is a perennial wildflower that grows in woodlands and mountain meadows. It is commonly found across much of the eastern United States. The nectar-rich little blooms are highly attractive to a variety of native bees.
Removing wildflowers from their natural setting isn’t beneficial to the environment and usually isn’t successful. If you’re thinking about growing dogtooth violets in your garden, look for the bulbs or plants at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Once the plant is established in your garden, it is easily propagated by digging and replanting the offsets in late summer.
What Does a Dogtooth Violet Look Like?
Dogtooth violet isn’t a violet, and the drooping, lily-like blooms are actually white with a subtle, violet tint. The flowers, which bloom in early spring, open in morning and close in evening. Each flower is accompanied by two bright green leaves marked with reddish-brown, trout-like spots. The plant is named for the small underground bulb, which resembles a dog’s pointed canine tooth. Mature height of a dogtooth violet plant is 6 to 12 inches.
Planting Dogtooth Violet Bulbs
There isn’t much effort needed when growing dogtooth violets in the woodland garden. Dogtooth trout lily performs well in a location in dappled sunlight or light shade, such as a spot under a deciduous tree. Although dogwood trout lily prefers moist soil, it benefits from drier soil during its dormant period in summer and fall.
To plant dogtooth violet bulbs, loosen the soil with a garden fork or spade, then plant the small bulbs, pointy end up, about 5 inches apart, with approximately 2 inches between each bulb. Water well to settle the soil around the bulbs. The bulbs will develop roots in the fall.
Care of Dogtooth Trout Lily
Water dogtooth trout lily as needed throughout the growing season, then decrease water after blooming. Usually, one deep watering per week is plenty.
Don’t be tempted to remove foliage after dogtooth trout lily stops blooming. In order to produce flowers the following year, the bulbs require food created when energy is absorbed by the leaves. Wait until the leaves die down and turn yellow.
A loose mulch, such as dried, chopped leaves, will protect the bulbs during the winter.
Trout Lilies, Fawn Lilies and Dog’s-Tooth Violets – The Elegant Erythroniums
The European species, E. dens-canis has solitary flowers in various shades of pink with very attractive mottled foliage. It is one of the earliest-blooming species and also among the shortest.. There are several named forms which vary in their shades of pink as well as several white-flowered selections. Erythronium caucasicum is very similar with white flowers and considered by some to be merely a variant of E. dens-canis.
The dog’s-tooth violet, E. dens-canis
One of the easiest American species is E. americanum. This is also a small species with solitary flowers, in this case bright yellow with various brown spots. The foliage is perhaps the most striking of all the Erythronium. This species produces underground stolons which run, resulting in new plants popping up some distance away from the parent bulb.
The American trout lily, E. americanum
The largest and most prolific are the hybrids and or selections (the jury is still out!) derived from E. tuolumnense, E. californicum and E. revolutum, all which hail from the mountains of California. These hybrids may reach to 30-40 cm, with 3-5 flowers per stem and relatively large basal leaves which are variously mottled. The most popular and vigorous hybrid is probably ‘Pagoda’ with pale sulfur-yellow flowers. ‘Citronella’ has smaller blooms of bright lemon-yellow. ‘Pink Beauty’ and ‘White Beauty’ are pink and white-flowered respectively.
Some of the named selections include ‘Pagoda’, ‘Citronella’ amd ‘White Beauty’
Other species which may be offered in the trade include E. albidum, an eastern North American species with solitary, white flowers and mottled leaves. From western North America comes the difficult alpine species E. grandiflorum, E. helenae, E. montanum and E. hendersonii. Westerners more amenable to cultivation include E. oregonum (1-3 white flowers, mottled foliage), E. californicum (1-3 cream white flowers, mottled foliage), E. howellii (nearly identical to E. californicum), E. citrinum (essentially a yellow-flowered E. californicum) and the parents of the hybrids, E. tuolumnense (solitary yellow flowers, plain green foliage) and E. revolutum (1-3 pink flowers, mottled foliage).
Some other American species inlcude E. albidum, E. revolutum and E. oregonum
To round out the list there are two Asian species of note. Erythronium japonicum has solitary lilac-purple flowers with darker interior markings and striking mottled foliage. Some gardeners consider this species the most beautiful of all the Erythronium. Finally there is E. sibericum, a plain-foliaged species whose relatively large soliatry flowers are pink with a contrasting cream-white center.
Flower and foliage details of E. japonicum
Now that we are starting to think about which fall-planted bulbs we will grow this year, keep Erythronium in mind. For the woodland garden and rock garden, they are second-to-none for their elegance and graceful beauty.
I would like to thank the following people for the use of their pictures: Galanthophile – E. revolutum; GardenGuyKin – E. oregonum; Jeff_Beck – E. albidum.
- Attributes: Genus: Erythronium Species: americanum Family: Liliaceae Life Cycle: Perennial Recommended Propagation Strategy: Division Country Or Region Of Origin: Eastern Canada to North Central & Eastern U.S.A Wildlife Value: Members of the genus Erythronium support the following specialized bee: Andrena (Leucandrena) erythronii. Play Value: Attracts Pollinators Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): insect pests, diseases, shade
- Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Native Plant Perennial Wildflower
- Fruit: Fruit Description: A capsule that splits to release two or more seeds.
- Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Purple/Lavender Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Bell Flower Petals: 6 petals/rays Flower Size: 1-3 inches Flower Description: The yellow 1.5 in. bell-shaped flower on a stalk has six petals/ perianth parts that may curve backward at the tip and are often tinged with purple on the back.
- Leaves: Leaf Color: Brown/Copper Green Purple/Lavender Leaf Arrangement: Opposite Leaf Shape: Elliptical Lanceolate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: > 6 inches Leaf Width: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: This plant has a pair of elliptic leaves 4-6 in. long. The leaves are pale green and mottled with purplish-brown.
- Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No
- Landscape: Landscape Location: Naturalized Area Riparian Woodland Landscape Theme: Pollinator Garden Shade Garden Attracts: Bees Pollinators Specialized Bees Resistance To Challenges: Diseases Insect Pests
We all have signs that tell us spring is here. For some, it is the red-winged blackbird calling or the sweet smell of the thawing earth. The sight of trout lilies poking through last autumn’s leaves is surely a sign for others.
This early bloomer appears briefly in the spring, often before all the snow and ice has left the ground. It is a common wildflower of eastern Canada’s deciduous — and sometimes mixed — woods but can adapt to partially shaded areas of many gardens. (See below for other Canadian Erythronium species.)
What’s in a name?
This plant has a few common names, each pointing to some distinguishing characteristic. “Trout lily” is derived from the resemblance of its mottled leaves to the colouring on brook trout. “Adder’s tongue” refers to the similarity between a snake’s tongue and the sharply pointed, unopened purple leaves as they poke through the dense forest litter. “Dogtooth violet” is said to reflect the white, tooth-like shape of its corm, although it is not a violet at all.
Its latin name, Erythronium americanum, is partly from the Greek word erythros, meaning “red.” This is a reference either to the red flower or the reddish blotching of some Erythronium species.
Trout lilies are low-growing plants that form colonies of plants of different ages. The youngsters are flowerless and have only one leaf, while older plants produce two leaves and a single flower. A plant’s corm has to reach sufficient depths (10 to 20 centimetres below ground) before it will devote energy to making the additional parts.
Despite being a low-growing plant that can easily blend in with its environment, the trout lily’s fleshy green leaves with purple mottling make it easy to recognize. Its graceful yellow flower sits atop a solitary stem and droops towards the ground. Its petals, however, curl upwards, revealing the bright yellow of the inner petals. As a member of the lily family, the trout lily displays a common characteristic of having three petals and three petal-like sepals.
Be sure to watch out for these common spring flowers before June has passed and their above-ground parts have withered away. After that, they will be focusing their energies on spreading underground and making new shoots for next year.
Trout lily leaves and corms were traditionally boiled and eaten and, as with many things in life, eaten in moderation for too many could cause mild vomiting.
(Caution: We are not recommending the use of these plants for medicinal or food purposes. Many plants are poisonous or harmful if eaten or used externally. The information on food and medicinal value is only added for interest. This information has been gathered from books and its accuracy has not been tested.)
This is a plant that relies more on the spreading abilities of its underground root system (corms) than on seed production from its flowers. In fact, it takes a few years for a plant to be mature enough to produce a flower and seeds. Trout lilies have recruited the help of ants, who eat a nutritious appendage attached to each seed and leave the rest to germinate. If you wish to propagate your trout lilies from seed, you will want to follow nature’s lead, at least as far as temperature is concerned. Keep your seeds moist and give them a few months of warm followed by a few months of cold, similar to the seeds falling on the ground at the beginning of summer and receiving the summer warmth and winter cold before sprouting the following spring. Wildflowers sometimes stagger their germination over several years, so you might want to sow a few extra seeds to avoid disappointment.
These plants will naturally spread by forming vast colonies. Some wild colonies are reputed to be as old as the trees around them — two or three hundred years! Despite its ability to spread, the trout lily is not considered an aggressive spreader but rather a delight to have in one’s garden.
Trout lilies grow in moist, fertile woods but can adapt to growing in many types of gardens. Ideally, they should be planted amidst two or more deciduous trees that are large enough to provide shade or partial shade once their leaves emerge.
As they are above ground for only a short time, the only care you have to be concerned with is choosing a suitable spot. It should offer sun in the spring — to warm the earth and provide enough light for the lilies to make and store food — and shade or partial shade in the summer.
Trout lilies are lovely interplanted with other spring ephemerals such as white-flowered bloodroot or pinkish spring beauties. They might even be happy in a section of your lawn, but be sure to let the grass grow until the plant’s aerial parts have withered away for the year.
If you buy corms, make sure they are firm and free of mould. Plant them in rich, well-drained soil in the fall, about 5 to 7.5 centimetres deep. Do not store them for future years, as they tend to go soft and mouldy. If you are buying potted plants instead, transplant them in the spring. Remember to buy from nurseries that guarantee nursery-propagated seeds or plants as our native plants and habitats are at risk from being depleted.
If you choose to improve the soil with fertilizer, compost is best.
Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)
- Native to: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
- Habitat: Moist woods and meadows
- Appearance: Yellow flower, blooming anywhere from March to May, atop a pair of purply-brown mottled leaves.
Some Other Canadian Erythronium Species
White trout lily (E. albidum)
- Native to: southern Ontario
- Habitat: Woods and thickets
- Appearance: Very similar to the trout lily but with a white flower, sometimes tinged with a lavender-blue colour with leaves that are only slightly mottled, if at all.
Coast fawn lily, Pink fawn lily (E. revolutum)
- Native to: southwester British Columbia (Vancouver Island, adjacent islands, and mainland)
- Habitat: Meadows and open moist woods
- Appearance: Each plant has one or more pinky-white flowers and mottled leaves.
Yellow avalanche lily (E. grandiflorum)
- Native to: British Columbia, Alberta
- Habitat: Alpine meadows and slopes
- Appearance: One or more yellow flowers per plant; leaves are not mottled.
White avalanche lily (E. montanum)
- Native to: southwestern British Columbia
- Habitat: Alpine meadows
- Appearance: White flowers sometimes streaked with pink, having one or more flowers with leaves that are usually not mottled.
White fawn lily (E. oregonum)
- Native to: southwestern British Columbia (Vancouver Island, adjacent islands, and mainland)
- Habitat: Grassy ledges, open moist woods
- Appearance: This species has one or more flowers — white with a light-yellow base — and mottled leaves.
Growing native plants can save time and money and be rewarding both to the eye and to our wildlife neighbours. To learn more about growing native plants in your garden, visit http://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/online-articles/news/habitat/gardening-with-native-canadian-plants.html.