(Erythronium Americanum) Lily family

Flower - Solitary, pale russet yellow, rarely tinged with purple,

slightly fragrant, 1 to 2 in. long, nodding from the summit of a

footstalk 6 to 12 in. high, or about as tall as the leaves.

Perianth bell-shaped, of 6 petal-like, distinct segments,

spreading at tips, dark spotted within; 6 stamens; the

club-shaped style with 3 short, stigmatic ridges. Leaves: 2,

unequal, grayish green, mottled and streaked with brown or all

green, oblong, 3 to 8 in. long, narrowing into clasping petioles.

Preferred Habitat - Moist open woods and thickets, brooksides.

Flowering Season - March-May

Distribution - Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to the


Colonies of these dainty little lilies, that so often grow beside

leaping brooks where and when the trout hide, justify at least

one of their names; but they have nothing in common with the

violet or a dog's tooth. Their faint fragrance rather suggests a

tulip; and as for the bulb, which in some of the lily-kin has

tooth-like scales, it is in this case a smooth, egg-shaped corm,

producing little round offsets from its base. Much fault is also

found with another name on the plea that the curiously mottled

and delicately pencilled leaves bring to mind, not a snake's

tongue, but its skin, as they surely do. Whoever sees the sharp

purplish point of a young plant darting above ground in earliest

spring, however, at once sees the fitting application of adder's

tongue. But how few recognize their plant friends at all seasons

of the year!

Every one must have noticed the abundance of low-growing spring

flowers in deciduous woodlands, where, later in the year, after

the leaves overhead cast a heavy shade, so few blossoms are to be

found, because their light is seriously diminished. The thrifty

adder's tongue, by laying up nourishment in its storeroom

underground through the winter, is ready to send its leaves and

flower upward to take advantage of the sunlight the still naked

trees do not intercept, just as soon as the ground thaws. But the

spring beauty, the rue-anemone, bloodroot, toothwort, and the

first blue violet (palmata) among other early spring flowers,

have not been slow to take advantage of the light either. Fierce

competition, therefore, rages among them to secure visits from

the comparatively few insects then flying - a competition so

severe that the adder's tongue often has to wait until afternoon

for the spring beauty to close before receiving a single caller.

Hive-bees, and others only about half their size, of the Andrena

and Halictus clans, the first to fly, the Bombylius frauds, and

common yellow butterflies, come in numbers then. Guided by the

speckles to the nectaries at the base of the flower, they must

either cling to the stamens and style while they suck, or fall

out. Thus cross-fertilization is commonly effected; but in the

absence of insects the lily can fertilize itself. Crawling

pilferers rarely think it worthwhile to slip and slide up the

smooth footstalk and risk a tumble where it curves to allow the

flower to nod - the reason why this habit of growth is so

popular. The adder's tongue, which is extremely sensitive to the

sunlight, will turn on its stalk to follow it, and expand in its

warmth. At night it nearly closes.

A similar adder's tongue, bearing a white flower, purplish tinged

on the outside, yellow at the base within to guide insects to the

nectaries, is the WHITE ADDER'S TONGUE (E. albidum), rare in the

Eastern States, but quite common westward as far as Texas and


YARROW MILFOIL OLD MAN'S PEPPER NOSEBLEED YELLOW AND ORANGE FLOWERS facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail