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The mottled leaves of yellow trout lilies are unique and beautiful. The yellow flowers are only an improvement to the appearance of this low-growing, spring perennial. They are wonderful additions to shady areas with nutrient-rich soil, especially when grouped in large colonies. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Lily
  • Family (botanic) Liliaceae
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Low-growing plant (under 6 inches), Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Irregular, Narrow, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Game mammals, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Approximately 4 to 8 inches tall, yellow trout lilies are primarily spread through clones that are produced when the underground modified stem structure (corm) sends out above-ground horizontal stems (stolons). In ideal conditions, these clones may become somewhat crowded. The corms can be transplanted, but this will need to take place in the late summer. The seeds of yellow trout lilies are also spread by ants.

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Yellow trout lilies are native to the Eastern United States into the Midwest. C-value: 10.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Yellow trout lilies attract long-tongued and short-tongued bees. Trout lilies have a specialty pollinator in the bee species Andrena erythronii. The seeds have a special store of lipids (elaiosome) that attracts ants to take them back to their nests as part of the reseeding process (myrmecochory).

Leaf description:

When yellow trout lilies are immature, they will produce only one leaf at ground level (basal), and when they mature and flower, they will have a pair of basal leaves on opposite sides of the singular flower stalk. The upper leaf surfaces are medium green in color and have a spotty type of mottling in brownish or grayish green. The undersides of the leaves are medium green. The white trout lily leaves are hairless (glabrous), but the lower portions of the leaves will be waxy (glaucous). They are often long and narrow (lanceolate) but can also be more rounded (elliptic). The edges of the leaves are smooth (entire margins), and the tips of the leaves are pointed (acuminate to acute).

Flower description:

Approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter, the flowers of yellow trout lily are made up of six petallike structures (tepals). These tepals are yellow and can sometimes have red spots on the insides near the center of the flower or can have a purple tinge to the outer sides. Protruding from the center of each flower is the stamen, which is most often red or brownish in color, but can also be yellow. Each plant will only have one flower on a single, hairless (glabrous) stalk.

Fruit description:

The flowers of yellow trout lilies produce small dry fruit (capsules) that have three chambers when mature. The seeds are contained within each chamber of the capsule.

Plant care:

Yellow trout lilies may need to be divided when colonies become crowded. During the winter, they prefer a leafy ground cover that remains throughout the spring. Mulching is recommended.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

White-tailed deer may feed on the leaves a bit, but the mottling helps to camouflage the foliage as deer are color-blind.

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