Friday, May 8, 2015

Remarkable Profusion: Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, Érythrone d'Amérique

I made a post about Erythronium americanum last year, in which I noted that the plant blooms rarely (due in large part to the fact that it can take an individual seven or eight years to reach sufficient maturity to start blooming [1,2,3]. I happened across some E. americanum colonies in the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery and the Mont-Royal park on May 2 which were evidently quite old, mature stands, as they were profusely blooming:

Mature colony of Erythronium americanum
I commented on myrmechory (ant-vector) as a seed dispersal method for E. americanum in the previous post, but did not say much about vegetative propagation. E. americanum actually reproduces more through vegetative than sexual means [3]. The extremely close proximity of the individuals in the colonies, and the fact that the colonies appear to be composed of a single type with respect to pollen morph (E. americanum has two varieties: yellow pollen and red pollen), suggest that within-colony, increases in numbers can be mostly accounted for by vegetative reproduction.

This year, I was able to get some good clear photographs showing the two different pollen morphs which I discussed in the last post:

E. americanum red pollen morph
E. americanum yellow pollen morph
I discuss in my previous post about this flower how this natural variation can be used to test hypotheses about pollen movement in wild settings.

All parts of this plant are edible, but emetic [1,4], so although they can be eaten they will tend to make you puke. If you are going to eat them, please bear in mind when collecting E. americanum the incredible length of time it takes for the plant to reach reproductive maturity and harvest sparingly; do not harvest at all in places where E. americanum is threatened such as Iowa or where its status is unknown such as in Newfoundland & Labrador.

This is a very attractive flower. I managed to get quite a few good photographs that really show the form of E. americanum in all its attractive glory.

E. americanum
E. americanum flower bud
Clump of E. americanum

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