Erythronium albidum Nutt.

White Dogtooth Violet


CC = 5
CW = 3
MOC = 77

© DETenaglia

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with deep-seated, bulblike corms, lacking the odor of onion or garlic.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 20 cm, unbranched, glabrous.

Leaves - Alternate or subopposite, appearing basal, two per flowering plant, one in nonflowering plants, the bases tapering into a sheath. Blades to 20 cm long, 1.3-4.0 cm wide, lanceolate to narrowly ovate or elliptic, flat, glabrous, green and glaucous on the undersurface, usually somewhat mottled with brown.

Erythronium_albidum_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Erythronium_albidum_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Erythronium_albidum_leaf.jpg Pressed leaf.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Single nodding flower terminating aerial stem.

Flower - Perianth 15-50 mm long, strongly reflexed, white, sometimes slightly tinged with pink, the sepals and petals free, lanceolate. Stamens 6, free, exserted. Anthers yellow, 6mm long. Style 1, somewhat thickened near the tip, the stigmas 3,2-3 mm long, slender, spreading to recurved. Ovary superior, with 3 locules, each with 8-20 ovules.

Erythronium_albidum_bud.jpg Flower bud.

© SRTurner

Erythronium_albidum_flower2.jpg Flower, dorsal view.

© SRTurner

Erythronium_albidum_flower1.jpg Flower, lateral view.

© SRTurner

Erythronium_albidum_flower.jpg Flower, ventral view.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Capsules, weakly 3-angled, 10-25 mm long, obovate, the tips rounded. Stems remain ascending in fruit, holding the fruit off the ground.

Erythronium_albidum_fruiting.jpg Fruiting plant. Fruits are held in the air by stalks which remain off the ground.

© SRTurner

Erythronium_albidum_fruit.jpg Fruit.

© SRTurner

Flowering - March - May.

Habitat - Mesic and bottomland forests, often in alluvial soils.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - E. mesochoreum.

Other info. - This is a favorite springtime ephemeral wildflower which is common in rich wooded areas throughout Missouri. Outside of Missouri its range includes the Midwest and extends into New England and Canada. It is reasonably easily recognized by general appearance, with a single nodding flower on a stem arising from between two mottled leaves. Main differences from its lookalike E. mesochoreum include a flower with reflexed tepals, a more colonial habit, and fruits held off the ground instead of prostrate. Leaf mottling is somewhat variable.

The popularity of this plant has spawned numerous colloquial names. "Dogtooth violet" refers to a fancied toothlike shape of the underground corm. The meaning of the term "violet" in this context is cryptic, as the plant is unrelated to violets and looks nothing like a violet. "Trout lily" refers to the brown mottling on the leaves, which somebody thought resembled the markings on a brown or brook trout. "Thousand-leaf" refers to the strongly colonial habit which, in a well established colony, can produce thousands of sterile leaves in a space of many square meters.

Reports of the edibility of this and related species are contradictory. Some claim that the leaves are suitable as salad greens and that the bulbs may be cooked and eaten. Other reports warn that these parts are emetic.

Photographs taken at Reform Conservation Area, Callaway County, MO., 3-24-04 (DETenaglia); also at Washington State Park, Washington County, MO, 4-5-2010 and 4-15-2019, Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 4-17-2014, Glassberg Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 4-4-2016, Young Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 3-27-2021, and Canaan Conservation Area, Gasconade County, MO, 4-26-2021 (SRTurner).