Erythronium mesochoreum Knerr

Prairie Dogtooth Violet

Erythronium mesochoreum plant

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb from a deep, bulblike corm.

Stems - Ascending to erect, 10-20 cm long, unbranched, glabrous.

Leaves - Leaves 2, alternate, arising from subterranean stem and thus appearing basal, bases tapering into a sheath. Blades 0.5-2.0 cm wide, linear-lanceolate to narrowly elliptic, somewhat folded longitudinally, sparsely or not mottled. Extensive "thousand leaf" array of sterile single leaves usually absent.

Erythronium_mesochoreum_leaf1.jpgLeaf adaxial.

Erythronium_mesochoreum_leaf2.jpgLeaf abaxial.

Inflorescences - Flowers solitary at tips of aerial stems.

Flowers - Perianth 15-50 mm long, broadly bell-shaped to spreading, white, sometimes slightly tinged with pink, purple, blue, or green, the sepals and petals free, lanceolate. Stamens 6, free. Style 1, somewhat thickened near the tip. Stigmas 3. Ovary superior, with 3 locules, each with 8-20 ovules.



Erythronium_mesochoreum_perianth2.jpgPerianth, ventral.

Erythronium_mesochoreum_style.jpgStamens and style.

Fruits - Obovate capsules, the tips broadly rounded, sometimes slightly indented or with a small apiculum at the very tip, positioned on the ground as the aerial stem becomes strongly arched after flowering.

Flowering - March - May.

Habitat - Prairies, glades, upland forest, rocky open areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Erythronium albidum.

Other info. - This species is less common in Missouri than the closely related E. albidum. It is found in many areas of the state but appears to be missing from the eastern Ozarks and Mississippi Lowlands. Its U.S. distribution is also fairly limited, being centered in eastern Missouri and western Kansas and restricted to a few of the surrounding states.

The plant looks quite similar to E. albidum but differs in several respects. The plant colony ususally does not adopt the "thousand leaf" habit characteristic of E. albidum, but instead forms numerous well-separated flowering plants. The leaves are narrower and usually lack the brownish mottling common in E. albidum, and the perianths are typically bell-shaped or spreading but never strongly reflexed. When in fruit, the stems arch downward with the capsules positioned on the ground. Pressed specimens can be difficult to determine, so it is important to record the above characteristics if collecting a voucher specimen.

The seeds of Erythronium mesochoreum bear elaiosomes and are gathered and distributed by ants. The plants also reproduce vegetatively, but this particular species mostly lacks the stolons found in other species of Erythronium. The leaves and corms are supposedly edible, but the corms are also reportedly emetic. The plant has at times been subject to excessive collections by unscrupulous "plant diggers." Reputable nurseries sell plants which are propagated in cultivation and not collected from the wild.

Photographs taken at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 3-28-2011 and 4-3-2019 (SRTurner).