Cranefly Orchid

The Wolf Creek Trout Lily preserve was established in 2009 with GNPS support to save a poplulation of trout lilies (Erythronium umbilicatum) from development.

Dimpled trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum) is one of two species of Erythronium found in Georgia. The speckled leaves of this species give rise to its common name; other species are sometimes referred to as fawn lily or dogtooth violet (so named because the tiny bulb resembles a dog’s tooth and the European species Erythronium dens-canis goes even further with that vein).

The dimple in our dimpled species refers to a small indentation in the top of the seed pod so it is most definitely identified after it blooms. The other species in Georgia is Erythronium americanum; it doesn’t have the dimple, and its range in the state is a little smaller. E. umbilicatum is a little more of interest to our state-wide membership because of its large range: from the northern-most counties all the way to the Florida line and even into Tallahassee, FL.

I first encountered dimpled trout lilies on a rescue in Cherokee County (a population that is not even represented on the range map shown below). These tiny members of the Liliaceae family love to grow in rich, sometimes rocky woods where their bulbs get bigger and grow deeper with age. The thick, rubbery leaves come up in early February, spearing their way through the dried leaves of the deciduous trees that shelter them. Single-leaved plants are too immature to bloom; it is the two-leaved plants that produce a single flower. The six bright yellow petals are strikingly offset by the purple anthers, especially as the petals reflex back. Occasionally you might find flowers with brown or, even more rarely, with yellow anthers. It’s fun to see the differences in a large population.

One of the biggest populations of this species is found in Grady County in southwest Georgia.  Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve was saved from development in 2009 thanks to the efforts and donations of many folks, including a gift from GNPS. I went to Wolf Creek to see the trout lilies last year and it was an incredible display.

Trout lilies are just one of Georgia’s beautiful spring ephemeral wildflowers, appearing during abundant spring sunshine and going dormant as the woodland canopy trees leaf out. Look for trout lilies, trilliums, bloodroot, mayapples, Virginia bluebells, and many more spring treasures throughout February, March, April, and May. You’ll be glad you took the time to catch them in bloom.

A nice place to see dimpled trout lilies is the Cochran Shoals area of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Cobb County – but don’t wait much longer to go! Not sure how to pronounce that big name? Check out our profile page to find a phonetic spelling for this species.

Downy rattlesnake orchids

Dimpled trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum) and map showing its range in Georgia. Photos by Ellen Honeycutt, map courtesy of The Atlas of Georgia Plants.

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