Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter Wildflowers - Trout Lily

Hoot Owl Karma recently happened upon a reference to North Carolina's native early bloomers; winter wildflowers which portend the advent of spring. First on the list were skunk cabbage, trout lily and hepatica. Since other commitments precluded the three hour drive to skunk cabbage territory, the Hoot Owl clan settled for a brief visit to nearby San-Lee Park, a "hidden gem" for nature lovers in the Central Carolina area. 

We had barely entered the heavily forested "Big Woods," when the sun-dappled forest floor came alive! Where just weeks before there was nothing but leaf litter, pinestraw and sweet gum balls, the slope above the small stream was completely overtaken by a sprawling encampment of trout lilies.
Although many locals refer to these abundant spring wildflowers as dogtooth violets, they are actually lilies.  The piscene portion of their name apparently refers to the resemblance of the mottled pattern of the lily leaves to the mottled dorsum of the brook trout, which shares neighboring habitat with the trout lily in many locales.

Sun-drenched lily prominently displaying the trout-like mottling of its leaves...
A closer look at the strongly recurved petals/sepals of the lily blossom; the petals are yellow above and below, while the sepals are yellow above and burnished bronze or chestnut brown below. 

Although one of central Carolina's most common early wildflowers, the trout lily is uncommonly beautiful, and well worth the effort of a trip to the woods from now until mid-March in your neighborhood. They are highly photogenic as well, the shot below was taken with a phone; just take care not to trample the little beauties if you approach for a closer look.

Special thanks to Hunter Randolph for his contributions to the photography for this post; he may soon be buying his own camera so as not to compete with Dad for shutter time...
This little cluster of lilies is getting pretty cozy with the wild ginger, we'll have to come back when it warms up a bit for a glimpse of their blossoms. Stay tuned...

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