toad lily (Tricyrtis), I think

12 Interesting Facts About Toad Lily

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The toad lily, also known as the snake lily or the trout lily, is a unique and fascinating plant. Here are 12 interesting facts about this spring wildflower:


The toad lily is a low-growing plant that blooms in early spring. It has mottled leaves that resemble frog skin, giving rise to its common name. Though small, the toad lily packs some intriguing features. Read on to learn more about this native woodland wildflower.

Facts About Toad Lily

  1. The toad lily is native to eastern North America. Its natural habitat stretches from Canada down to Georgia. These wildflowers thrive in moist, shaded deciduous forests.
  2. Its scientific name is Erythronium americanum. This mouthful of a name comes from Greek and Latin roots. The genus name Erythronium refers to the red color these flowers can take on.
  3. The leaves and flowers emerge separately. First the mottled, oval-shaped leaves sprout up. Weeks later, a single nodding flower emerges on a smooth stalk.
  4. Flowers can be white, pink, yellow, or purple. While many toad lilies produce white blossoms, flower color can vary. The intensity of the hue differs by habitat.
  5. Bees, flies, and beetles pollinate the flowers. Attracted by the flower’s faint sweet scent, these insects brush up against the reproductive parts inside the blossom. This transfers pollen and allows fertilization.
  6. It reproduces both sexually and asexually. In addition to seeds formed from pollination, new toad lily plants can sprout from the parent plant’s underground bulb-like stems.
  7. Toad lilies have contractile roots. These specialized roots can slowly pull the plant’s underground bulb deeper into the soil over time. This helps protect the plant during winter frosts and drought.
  8. The plant goes dormant after flowering. Leaves, stems, and flowers die back completely in early summer. The plant persists underground until the following spring when new growth resumes.
  9. Deer and small mammals eat the leaves and flowers. Chipmunks, mice, and squirrels nibble on emerging leaves and blossoms. Deer also browse the foliage and young shoots.
  10. Several Native American groups used the plant as food and medicine. Bulbs were roasted, boiled, or dried and ground into flour. The Blackfoot tribe chewed the raw bulbs to relieve sore throats.
  11. The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals. These needle-like crystals can cause skin irritation and digestive upset if eaten raw in large quantities. Cooking breaks down the irritating crystals.
  12. Toad lilies thrive in deciduous forests with filtered sunlight. They grow alongside spring ephemerals like trillium, bloodroot, and dogtooth violet in nutrient-rich, moist soil.


Though small and fleeting, the toad lily plays an intriguing ecological role. This native wildflower offers early-season nourishment for pollinators and other wildlife. With its unusual foliage and nodding blossoms, it delivers a breath of spring to the shady forest floor. The next time you’re hiking in the woods in early spring, keep an eye out for this unique plant.

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