Erythronium americanum

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: yellow adder's tongue 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Liliaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful

Culture

Best grown in moist, acidic, humusy soils in part shade to full shade. Plants may be grown from seed, but will not flower for 4-5 years. Quicker and better results are obtained from planting corms which are sold by many bulb suppliers and nurseries. In addition, offsets from mature plants may be harvested and planted. Plant corms 2-3” deep and 4-5” apart in fall. Corms of this species produce stolons, and plants will slowly spread to form large colonies if left undisturbed in optimum growing conditions. These native plants do not transplant well and should be left alone in the wild. This is a spring ephemeral whose foliage disappears by late spring as the plant goes dormant.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Erythronium americanum, commonly called yellow adder’s tongue, yellow trout lily, yellow fawn lily and yellow dog-tooth violet, is a Missouri native spring wildflower that occurs in moist woods, on wooded slopes and bluffs, and along streams in the southern part of the State (Steyermark). A single, nodding, bell- or lily-shaped yellow flower blooms atop a naked scape sheathed by two glossy, tongue-shaped, tulip-like, basal leaves (to 6” long) in early spring. Petal-like perianth segments are reflexed and often brushed with purple on the outside. Anthers are yellow to brown. Leaves are mottled with brown and purple. It typically grows 4-6” (infrequently to 9”) tall. Flowering plants always have two basal leaves, however colonies frequently have non-flowering plants with only a single leaf. The common name of adder’s tongue is in reference to the tongue-like shape of the flowering shoot as it rises up in spring and the supposed resemblance of the flower to the open mouth of a snake. The common name of trout lily is in reference to the mottled leaves and the appearance of the flowers during trout fishing season. The common name of fawn lily is in reference to the spotted leaves and the supposed resemblance of the two-leaved plant to the upright ears of a fawn. The common name of dog-tooth violet (it grows from tiny corms that purportedly resemble dogteeth and its flowers somewhat resemble violets) is unfortunately quite misleading because this flower is not a member of the violet family.

Genus name comes from the Greek word erythronion from erythros meaning red, originally the name for another plant.

Specific epithet means of North or South America.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Plants go dormant by late spring.

Garden Uses

Naturalize in moist soils in shaded areas of native plant gardens, shade gardens, woodland gardens or wild/naturalized areas. Also grows well in pond or stream banks or in shady areas of rock gardens.