Each day when I get home from work, I examine the flora freshly emerging from the detritus of last year’s bounty. I had forgotten where I planted some bulbs so am pleasantly surprised when unexpected hyacinths, allium, and tulips appear. Some plants like the golden bleeding heart seemed to have “moved” over the winter to a site about a foot away. Yesterday as I was walking in the east garden, I noticed an abundance of beautifully mottled leaves. I had no clue what they were. Certainly not anything we planted. They had to be volunteers.
With a bit of googling, I discovered that Trout Lilies (Erythronium Americanum) are growing there, so named because the mottled leaves look like the skin of the brown or brook trout. It is also known as Dogtooth Violet (its bulb is shaped like a long tooth) and is part of the lily family. It can take up to seven years to produce a flower and up until then produces only one leaf. When the plant matures, a second leaf appears and produces a single flower, which is hermaphrodite containing both male and female organs.
The Trout Lily is a wildflower (though one can purchase bulbs) and its natural habitats are the floors of deciduous forests when, in early spring before the foliage on trees grows, they can get all the light they need. According to the website Edible Wild Food,
Trout Lily is both medicinal and edible. The leaves have a very mild flavour and the flowers have a slight sweetness due to their nectar and are also slightly acrid. The corms are edible as well and have a cucumber-like taste. Trout lilies are an emetic (makes you throw up), therefore it is recommended not to eat mass quantities of these in one day. You can add this plant to a salad or eat them as a trail snack. You can also make a tea with the flower, leaves or corm (or all). Collect enough corms then they can be roasted.
The trout lily is known as a spring ephemeral because its life is short, dying back to its underground parts before the heat of summer. Though it may take seven years, I look forward to its first blooming. And I look forward to the patience I will have to muster in anticipation.