Wild & Edible Trout Lilies

If this seemingly endless winter ever goes away, the spring will bring us some of nature’s miracles.  One of my favorite spring visitors is the Trout lily.  This unassuming little woodland gem can easily be missed, as it nods downwards, hiding its shy beauty.

Trout Lily visited by foraging bee

Trout Lily visited by foraging bee

Trout lilies can be easily identified by their leaves which grow singly or in pairs in large patches, each leaf resembling the patterning found on the flanks of the Brook Trout, with brown patches against a smooth green background.  It usually takes a plant several years to build up enough energy to produce a single flower, so that in any given patch, only a few plants will flower each year.

There was a time when I was lucky enough to find a whole creekside embankment covered in these little yellow beauties.  The previous year, someone had removed a bunch of trees and bushes, opening up the area to the sun.  This caused many of the plants to bloom at the same time.  Unfortunately, a couple of years later, the entire bank was washed away by a hurricane, and they never returned.

Trout Lilies blooming outside the Garner Arts Center in Garnerville, NY

Trout Lilies blooming outside the Garner Arts Center in Garnerville, NY

Not only are Trout lilies a feast for the eyes (especially after a long bleak winter), but they are edible.  Everything from the flowers to  the corms (tuber-like roots) can be eaten.  However, I restrict my activities to photographing them and munching on the occasional leaf.  Although these are among the first flowers to appear, they can still be found in April, when the Spring Beauties pop up (also edible, by the way). They can be seen growing side by side (as in the picture).

Trout Lily growing alongside Spring Beauties

Trout Lily growing alongside Spring Beauties

With the late winter we are experiencing, don’t be surprised if you don’t find trout lilies appearing until April this year.

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