There used to be a lot of these dogtooth violets (Erythronium americanum) in the woods across the road from our house. Unfortunately, these and many other wildflowers have been casualties of the new owners and their haphazard logging operations. We have tried to save as many as we could… perhaps in time we’ll have most of the different types of wildflowers thriving again here on our side of the property.
Dogtooth violets have many names, including trout lily and adder’s tongue. I would guess that the various names came about because the root is white and smooth and shaped like a canine tooth… and the leaves have prominent markings like brook trout and adders. We always called them dogtooth violets, but they are not violets at all and are actually part of the lily family.
Each mature plant will grow six to ten inches high, have two leaves that usually point in opposite directions, and will produce only one flower. Younger plants will have only one leaf and no flower. Most of the dogtooth violets around here have dark green leaves with bronze colored markings… these produce flowers that are deep yellow on the inside with maroon streaks on the outside. We also have some dogtooth violets that have only white markings on the leaves… these plants produce flowers that are a solid bright yellow.
The flowers are bell-shaped and drooping. When the flowers are fully opened, the petals will bend backwards to expose six brown stamens. Sometimes we have so much rain and cloudy weather here in early spring, the dogtooth violets never fully open. I think they’re almost prettier, though, before the petals bend back.