Trout Lily Reproduction

Erythronium americanum

Clump of Yellow Trout Lily (L) and developing stolon (R)

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) is a common spring ephemeral in Michigan. Most colonies consist of some two-leaved flowering plants and numerous single leaved non-flowering plants. Many of the non-flowering plants are not seedlings but are produced via stolons. Stolons, from Latin stolo meaning shoot, twig, or branch, are runners that extend on top of the ground and then the tips burrow into the ground sometimes emerging again. New plants develop and root at these tips. Normally the stolons are covered by the duff, but areas with disturbed duff expose the coils of stolons. Plants in the colonies I examined had 0 to 3 stolons each. In a good year a single stolon produces up to four new plants. Look for the stolons in rich woods. They can be found even after the leaves have died down.

Erythronium americanum

Yellow Trout Lily leaves and stolons (L) and Canada Mayflower leaves with Trout Lily stolons (R)

Copyright 2017 by Donald Drife

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Anther Variations in Yellow Trout Lily

Last weekend at the Royal Oak Nature Society’s Open House I was asked about the two types of Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) that grow in Tenhave Woods. Some plants have yellow anthers and other plants have brown to red anthers.

Erythronium americanum

Anther Color in Yellow Trout Lily Tenhave Woods

I did a search of the literature and found Oliver Farwell’s 1938 description of Erythronium americanum var. rubrum. He writes, “In this region we have two very conspicuous variations of this species that could readily be differentiated by size of plants and flowers alone. The smaller one, with green leaves mottled with paler green or dirty white, with mostly entire stigmas, and with yellow stamens, is the typical variety of the species; scapes are from 5 to 10 inches high, with a yellow flower 0.75 [19mm] -1.35 inches [34mm]  long….The larger variety [var. rubrum] is one third to one half larger in all its parts; the stigma is usually three-lobed, and the stamens are red, the leaves being mottled with brownish purple” (Oliver A. Farwell, Notes on the Michigan Flora VII, in Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters Vol. XXIII, 1937. Published 1938). His plants were collected in Houghton County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is no doubt that these entities are the two types we have in Tenhave Woods. What I don’t know is the significance of them.

Erythronium americanum

Yellow Trout Lily with Yellow Anthers, Tenhave Woods

Erythronium americanum

Yellow Trout Lily with Reddish-brown Anthers, Genesee Co., Michigan

Fernald, in the eighth edition of Gray’s Manual of Botany, writes regarding this species “highly variable, needing more study.” He does not mention Farwell’s var. rubrum although he must have known about the name. Gleason, in the New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora states, “races with yellow and with brown-red anthers exist and some students of the genus have suspected that two species are included.” Fassett in his Spring Flora of Wisconsin merely comments, “anthers yellow or reddish-brown”. Fassett was well known for using names for minor forms of plants but ignored Farwell’s named variety. The Flora of North America states, “filaments yellow, lanceolate; anthers yellow, chestnut brown, or lavender; pollen yellow or brown” but makes no taxonomic distinction.

The plants appear to be distinct and found over a large range. More study is needed including, marking plants to discover if the anther color is consistent from year to year, taking measurement to see if there is a size difference, looking for other characters to distinguish the plants, and looking for intermediate plants. Farwell’s
characters of leaf mottling and size do not hold true in my limited test
sample. After study, we can then hopefully determine if the plants are distinct species, subspecies, varieties, or forms.

Flower Parts

Flower Parts

Here is a review of the parts of a flower. Anther: the part that produces pollen. Filament: the thin structure that supports the anther. The anther and filament combine to make up the stamen. Stigma: the sticky part that receives the pollen. Style: the structure that supports the stigma. Ovary: where the seeds develop. The stigma, style, and ovary combine to make up the pistil.

 

 

Copyright 2013 by Donald Drife

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Spring Wildflowers II

Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot Tenhave Woods, Royal Oak, MI

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a common Michigan wildflower. Red plant juices flow through all parts of the plant, whence the common name. The juices were used as a non-permanent fabric dye and by the Native Americans as body paint. In southern Michigan, it flowers in April. Large colonies are found in rich woodlots. It reproduces by rhizomes that can form large clumps and by seed. The seeds are myrmecochorous, meaning ants distribute them.

Dicentra cucullaria

Dutchman’s-breeches, Tenhave Woods, Royal Oak, MI

Dutchman’s-breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is another common Michigan wildflower. It is often found with bloodroot and blossoms at the same time. The common name comes from the shape of the flower that resembles a pair of upside-down pants.

Erythronium americanum

Yellow Trout Lily, Tenhave Woods, Royal Oak, MI

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) is a member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae). As now recognized Michigan has only two genera in the lily family, Erythronium and the true Lilies (Lilium). The remaining genera that once formed this large family have been moved into ten other families. Other common names for this species are Dog-tooth-violet, Yellow Adder’s Tongue, and Yellow Fawn Lily. This is one of the problems with common names and a good reason to use the scientific name. The yellow hanging flowers and mottled leaves are the key characters of this plant. This species has yellow anther individuals and red-brown anther individuals.

Erythronium albidum

White Trout Lily

White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum) is a similar species with white flowers and the leaves less mottled. It is absent north of Bay City in the Lower Peninsula and is only found in the western Upper Peninsula. It trends to grow in floodplains and is locally common.

 

 

 
 

Copyright 2013 by Donald Drife

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