Herb: Trout Lily

Latin name: Erythronium americanum

Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Medicinal use of Trout Lily:

All parts of the plant, but especially the bulb and the fresh leaves, are strongly emetic and are not used internally. The fresh leaves are also antiscrofulatic and emollient and are used as an infusion or stimulating poultice applied to swellings, tumours and scrofulous ulcers. The juice from crushed leaves has been applied to wounds that are not healing. A poultice of the crushed bulbs has been applied to swellings and to help remove splinters. The raw plant, excluding the roots, has been used by native North American young girls to prevent conception.

Description of the plant:


20 cm
(7 3/4 inch)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Meadows and rich damp open woodland.

Edible parts of Trout Lily:

Bulb - raw or cooked. A crisp, chewy and very pleasant taste. The bulb is up to 25mm long and is buried quite deeply in the soil. Leaves - raw or cooked. Added to salads. Eating the leaves will greatly reduce the vigour of the bulb, so can only be recommended in times of emergency. Flowers, flower buds and flower stems - raw or cooked.

Other uses of the herb:

Plants spread freely by means of underground stems and make a delightful ground cover in dappled shade. The plants are only in growth from late winter to late spring so the ground cover effect is ephemeral.

Propagation of Trout Lily:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a shady position in a cold frame. Water lightly in summer, it should germinate in autumn or winter. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification. Sow as early in spring as possible in a cold frame. Sow the seed thinly so that it will not be necessary to prick them out for their first year of growth. Give an occasional liquid feed to the seedlings to make sure that they do not become nutrient deficient. When the plants are dormant, pot up the small bulbs putting 2 - 3 bulbs in each pot. Grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for another 2 3 years and then plant them out into their permanent positions when they are dormant in late summer. Division in summer as the leaves die down. This species does not produce offsets.

Cultivation of the herb:

Meadows and rich damp open woodland.

Known hazards of Erythronium americanum:

Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, the following notes have been seen for another member of this genus and so some caution is advised. Skin contact with the bulbs has been known to cause dermatitis in sensitive people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.