Erythronium propullans (Dwarf Trout Lily)

Plant Info
Also known as: Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily, Minnesota Fawnlily, Minnesota Adder's-tongue
Genus:Erythronium
Family:Liliaceae (Lily)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • Federally Endangered
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:3 to 4 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flower] A single, nodding flower at the end of a stiff naked stalk 1½ to 4¾ inches (4 to 12 cm) long. Flowers have 4 to 6 lance-elliptic tepals (petals with similar sepals), 4 or 5 being common, averaging ½ inch (8 to 15 mm) long, white to pinkish usually tinged purplish on the outer surface. In the center are 2 to 6 stamens of varying lengths with bright yellow tips (anthers). Flowers open in the morning, the tepals flaring out and back, and close up at night.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal, flowering plants with a pair of leaves and non-flowering plants with one. Leaves are lance-elliptic to oval to egg-shaped, 1½ to 5 inches (to 13 cm) long, to ¾ inch wide, toothless, hairless, tapering at both ends, on a slender stalk that arises from an underground bulb, most bulbs not producing flowers. Color is blue-green irregularly mottled with purplish brown, the mottling typically fading with age.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is very rarely produced. Plants primarily spread vegetatively through stolons (horizontal stems) buried just below the surface.

Notes:

Dwarf Trout Lily is endemic to 3 counties in southern Minnesota—it grows nowhere else on earth, though it was transplanted at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis and the UM Arboretum in Carver County. Many people have reported finding Dwarf Trout Lily in other locations, but it invariably turns out to be the related and much more common White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum), with which it often grows side by side and sometimes hybridizes and may produce fruit. When not flowering, the Dwarf is not easily distinguished from other trout lilies, though the leaves are slightly smaller than those of the average White Trout Lily. When in bloom, the flower size difference is unmistakable, plus the Dwarf commonly has only 4 or 5 tepals where the larger White always has 6. The Dwarf also has relatively small anthers on its 2 to 6 stamens, where the larger White has 6 stamens with distinctly long, prominent anthers.

According to the DNR, is thought by some that Dwarf Trout Lily is a White Trout Lily that mutated when the last glacier came through the area. It was listed as a Minnesota State Endangered species in 1984 and Federally Endangered in 1986.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Rice County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, Minneapolis. Other photos courtesy Tony Ernst.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jacqui - Jefferson Lake, LeSeuer county
on: 2009-08-16 19:07:14

We have the honor of seeing this flower every spring at our lake cabin on Jefferson Lake (middle) in LeSeuer County along with Dutchmen's britches. We may eventually build on this spot and I am interested in finding out how to relocate these delicate plants to a safer spot on our land. Any suggestions??

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-08-16 21:44:42

Since dwarf trout lily is an endangered species you will need a permit to do anything with it, even on your own land. You should contact the DNR for more information.

Posted by: Mary Beth
on: 2009-11-21 12:33:31

In addition to being endangered in Minnesota, the dwarf trout lily is also on the federally endangered list. It grows only in three Minnesota counties. The Minnesota DNR states that attempts to propagate the plant have been unsuccessful, serving only to further reduce the existing population. Biologists have also told me that attempts to move dwarf trout lily failed. Can you build around the site?

Posted by: Annie - Burnsville
on: 2011-05-07 23:12:55

I had the pleasure of finding the small patch of Dwarf Trout Lilies at Big Woods State Park. There were only 5 dwarfs amongst many regular Trout lilies. Very neat experience.

Posted by: Lloyd - Lake Zumbro out by the Ponderosa Supper Club
on: 2012-05-07 18:53:43

they are all over I have looked before and I believe are the Drawf trout lily. We have been out here for 20 years and bloom every year.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-05-07 21:01:19

Lloyd, the common white trout lily is often mistaken for the dwarf, which is only naturally occuring in 3 Minnesota counties: Goodhue, Steele, and Rice. What you saw was not likely the dwarf, but both are nice plants to encounter. :-)

Posted by: KANDACE - Wabasha County
on: 2018-01-23 07:59:33

These are on the side trail at a Lake City park, also located in one small patch in a wooded area in western tips of Lake City. I have seen both the larger white trout and the dwarf... as well as conducted a botanical inventory of the area while a student in college, so Wabasha county should be listed. But it is true they are defiantly in pinpoint patch locations here... we aren't fortunate enough to see an early spring Woodland massive bloom of them.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-01-23 09:36:39

Kandace, the DNR's Biological Survey team says it is is highly unlikely dwarf trout lily is persisting in a floodplain as you suggest. If you could follow up with good, clear images of these populations that would help determine whether they should persue this further.

Posted by: Lisa Carlson - Anoka County, Coon Rapids Dam
on: 2019-05-05 07:09:11

Went on my yearly hunt looking for the Toad lillies. In past years I found yellow ones but this year massive quantities of these white ones. There were very large patches of them all along the west sides of the paved trails up to the overpass of the freeway

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-05-05 09:49:07

Lisa, what you saw was not the dwarf trout lily, but the common white trout lily, which is considerably larger. The dwarf in only naturally occurring in 3 southern MN counties, not as far north as Anoka County.

Posted by: Camryn - Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
on: 2020-06-03 23:29:17

Saw this beauty in 2015. I found the picture to make sure it had four petals, does that confirm it as the dwarf trout lily?

Posted by: Natasha - Kenyon
on: 2022-04-02 22:28:20

My mom lives in Kenyon, MN in Goodhue County. Apparently these have sprouted on her land. Truly beautiful and rare.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-04-03 05:28:14

Natasha, in all likelihood, what you saw was not the dwarf trout lily, but the common white trout lily, which is considerably larger and consistently has 6 petals, where the dwarf usually averages 4.

Posted by: Carol A Overland - Rice Lake State Park, near Owatonna
on: 2022-05-09 11:49:01

They are everywhere here, covering the ground in the campground!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-05-09 12:02:42

Carol, what you see at the park is the common white trout lily, not the dwarf.

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