The Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) is one of the first wildflowers to appear in Maine each spring. These flowers can be found in ditches along the roadside or in areas that receive full sun in the spring. They are a favorite with children because they can be picked by gently pulling the flower from the soil. Its long root is white and tender and is often intact when the flower is pulled.
I grew up called these flowers cowslips and did not learn until a few years ago that a cowslip is the name of a flowering plant in Ireland.and England. According to Plantlife, the European cowslip probably derived its name from frequenting areas around cow manure or places where cows had "slupped". It seems likely that when my ancestors encountered the Trout Lily here in Maine they called it a cowslip because it looked similar to the European wildflower.
The Trout Lily earns its name from the mottled brown and green spots on its leaves that look like the sides of a brook or lake trout. Trout lilies produce two (sometimes three) mottled leaves. A single bloom appears from the center on a long slender stalk. Each bloom contains three sepals and three petals which all fold backwards to expose six brown stamens.
Look for Trout Lilies in early May soon after the ground has thawed and ferns begin to appear. This photo was taken on May 7 in USDA plant hardiness zone 4.
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