Every walk in the woods is a treasure hunt as spring ephemerals begin to break through the soil surface. I am almost positive that this trout lily was not up yesterday, but today it is in full flower in the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Notice the beautifully mottled foliage, reminiscent of a trout’s belly. In South Carolina, trout lilies begin to emerge in early to mid-February when leaves are off the trees. Their range is wide in eastern North America, from Labrador in the north to Georgia in the south and as far west as Mississippi.
I hope that this single plant will become a colony one day, but this will take a long time. These plants rarely spread via seed; instead, they rely on runners to spread. If seeds develop, their distribution is aided by ants (a process known as myrmecochory). Ants seek out the seeds for the oil-rich elaiosome (small structure attached to a seed), which they feed to their offspring. The seeds are not damaged in this process but discarded away from the parent plant, where they can germinate. I have read that some huge trout lily colonies are over 300 years old. Wouldn’t that be a sight to behold?
For more information on spring ephemerals, see HGIC Spring Wildflowers.