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Trout Lily

Erythronium americanum

Other Names: Adder’s tongue, American trout-lily, Dog’s tooth violet, Serpent’s Tongue, Yellow Adder’s-tongue, Yellow fawn-lily, Yellow Snowdrop

Trout Lily Herbal and Edible Properties   

Caution!  Trout Lily can be strongly emetic  in some people (which means it makes you throw up a lot).

Edible and medicinal, the whole Trout Lily plant is used as fresh salad additives, flowers are tasty, or cooked as a pot herb.

Recipe: Salad addition: Use 1 tbls. per person, fresh flower petals, chopped root, and leaves in a tossed salad.

Trout Lily is used in alternative medicine as contraceptive, diuretic, emetic, emollient, febrifuge, stimulant. Plant constituents include alph-methylene-butyrolactone which has antimutagenic activity. This chemical prevents cell mutation and may prove to be a valuable weapon in fighting all cancers. The leaves and bulb are crushed and used to dress wounds and reduce swellings, for scrofula and other skin problems. A medicinal tea made from the root and leaf is said to reduce fever and fainting, tea also taken for ulcers, tumors and swollen glands.

Trout Lily Habitat and Description

  A North American native perennial found growing in damp, open woodlands from New Brunswick to Florida and west to Ontario and Arkansas. Cultivation: a member of the Lily family Trout Lily is cultivated by seed or transplanting of the bulb or corm in fall. Prefers slightly acid well-drained soil, plenty of humus and requires semi-shade. The root is a deeply buried, bulb-like corm, light brown, about 1 inch long, and solid with white starchy flesh. Two or three leaf blades grow from the base and are about 3 inches tall, oblong, smooth, dark green, with purplish mottling, and about 1 inch wide. The slender stem is 3 to 4 inches long and leafless. The flowers of Trout Lily can be bright white or creamy colored to bright yellow it is about 3 inches across, lily-like and drupes with the six petals folded upwards. It blooms in April and May. Gather edible fresh leaves, bulbs and flowers in spring and root in summer to fall. Dry root for later medicinal herb use.

Trout Lily Folklore and History

 It is said that the Cherokee Indians would chew Trout Lily root and spit it in the water to make fish bite. The young women of one tribe ate the raw plant in large quantities to prevent conception, probably due to the fact they were too busy vomiting!

Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron

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