Finding blooming beauty

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Recently, I rambled about the woods. The brisk cool air was alive with the heady scent of the past season’s damp decaying foliage beneath my feet. The particular path that I took in reality was no path at all, but the course of least obstruction.

I ambled along avoiding fallen branches and the occasional uprooted fallen tree and its massive tangled root ball looming large aside the torn ground from which it once stood proud — all while keeping a keen eye for any critters that may be about.

Occasionally, I paused and stood silent scanning my surroundings. The layers of thick packed leaves beneath my feet felt soft and spongy under my step, oddly like the plushest of groovy shag carpeting. With the exception of the occasional green moss mound, all is awash with winter’s sleepy cold colors of tone on tone greys and browns.

Silently my soul mourned and searched the landscape for the bright warm colors of spring and summer.

Then quite unexpectedly, I spotted a bright glimmer of yellow ahead. Eureka! My heart beat quickened and I moved closer to inspect this shimmering yellow anomalous jewel, protruding from the cold floor of the woods.

To my delight, I happened upon a colony of Erythronium americanum, more commonly known as the Trout Lily or Dog Toothed Violet a spring ephemeral plant of the lily family.

A native to North American woodland habitats, Erythronium americanum gets its name Trout Lily by the mottled coloring of its green-gray-brown leaves that one might say resemble the coloring of a brook trout.

The trout lily grows from a corm, or underground bulb which is said to resemble dog’s teeth. Its flower is a delicate one-inch bloom that resembles a violet, hence the name Dog Tooth Violet. It does not flower the first four or five years of its life cycle and will only have one leaf during this time. Once it reaches maturity, it will grow two leaves and a single erect flower stalk.

The yellow flower blooms March through April and is a small, delicate nodding bisexual bloom that is insect, or self-pollinated, and closes at night.

Trout Lilys break ground during the very early weeks of spring and die back and enter dormancy as soon as the temperature warms up and summer begins. They are abundant in wooded areas and happiest were the soil is consistently damp and well-drained.

Blooming beauty can be found in the most unexpected of time and place. Once I had completely inspected and admired my specimen, I noticed all the others surrounding it. A camouflaged battalion of delicate yellow jewels springing forth from the woodland floor with their ephemeral declaration of spring.

The woods have never disappointed me. I have always found something to admire and ponder while in the woods. Sometimes nature’s gardens are equally if not more beautiful and wondrous than the most thought out well-known landscaped ones of humanity.

Dawn Conrad is a columnist for The K-V Dispatch. Her email address is