Trout Lilies and Trilliums, Tra La!

So these past few days Judy and I have been staying with friends who live outside of Baltimore. On Friday we had an expedition to the Mt. Cuba Center near Wilmington, Delaware. This is a sort of botanical garden dedicated to the native plants of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Yellow Trout Lily

There’s lots from Mt. Cuba to show you, but for this post I’d like to focus on the Trout Lilies and Trilliums. These are, to my mind, the most glamorous of the North American woodland ephemerals. Seeing so many at the same time in the same place was a rare treat.

White Trout Lily

Anyway, we got to the Mt. Cuba Center when the spring ephemerals were just a few days away from their peak. There were masses of Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum). In a few spots we also saw patches of White Trout Lily (E. albidum).



The Trout Lilies mixed really beautifully with the other woodland wildflowers. Here’s Yellow Trout Lily with False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum). Trout Lily supposedly got its name from the speckled leaves, which reminded some people of trout. This makes me wonder if there used to be green trout in the olden days.



And here’s Yellow Trout Lily with a flower that looks like Sharp Lobed Hepatica (H. acutiloba), but the leaves are all wrong. Can anybody help with ID? And I should add here that ID corrections are also more than welcome.



And now to the Trilliums. Here a patch of Great White Trillium (T. grandiflorum), arguably the most beautiful species in the genus. These are just the beginning, however.



These are some Toad Lilies (T. sessile) – perhaps not the classiest of common names. The Mt. Cuba Center has a great many Trillium species, including a whole garden devoted primarily to Trilliums. Many of the species were not yet in bloom.



This is Red Trillium, (T. erectum) also called Stinking Benjamin because it has an unpleasant odor. I have to wonder why it is called erectum (meaning erect), given that it is a nodding flower. It was once used to treat gangrene, but not erectile problems (as far as we know).



Least Trillium (T. pusillum) is a rare Trillium, considered endangered in a number of states. I really like the wavy petals that have a slight hint of pink. The leaves seem quite unusual for this genus.



Finally, here is Nodding Trillium (T. cernuum). According to, the Mt. Cuba Center is the only garden in the country where this flower is on display.



Much more from the Mt. Cuba Center in my next post!

47 Comments on “Trout Lilies and Trilliums, Tra La!”

  1. I think the plant you asked about is Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’. Love it! Saw it at Beal Gardens at Michigan State University, growing in a mixed planting with Virginia Bluebells- stunning. Mt. Cuba Center looks like an awesome place.

  2. These are my two favorite ephemeral wildflowers too. What a treat to see them. I love the sessile trilliums, with their odd flowers that never really open. You’ve shown your sense of humor here. Maybe the water the trout were swimming in was green.

  3. Wonderful post. The plants you labeled hepatica are in fact anemone, as the above reader pointed out. Rick visited the Mount Cuba Center years ago when Dick Lighty was the director there, he loved both the gardens and the interaction with Dick. We grow most of the plants you mentioned here at the nursery, though being in Maine, they are just beginning to break the soil. Except for the Hepaticas, which are blooming. On days we wish we could venture away from the nursery, especially in the spring to travel south, Mt Cuba would most surely be on the list of places to re-visit.

  4. Back in the late 1980’s I got out Township Board to change the township flower from the hated purple loosestrife to the trillium grandiflorum which grew abundantly in our nature preserve. And then the deer population got out of control – just a local resident Ted Nugent said it would – and the trillium disappeared. Your photos are lovely.

  5. Beautiful post on the Mt. Cuba Center, but then I’m biased I live about 10 mins away from this lush oasis in Wilmington. 🙂 I see you talking about toad lily, I have some too, but mine bloom in the Fall, are there more than one species of this particular plant?

  6. Mt Cuba is such an interesting place to visit. I have been several times but never this early in the season. Fun to see all the different types of trillium. We have red and white trillium blooming wild in the woods at Glen Villa, plus lots of yellow toad lilies. I’ve never seen the white ones, though, so will keep my eyes open this spring.

  7. Two of my favorite plants. I’ve put in a few different trout lilies the last couple of years and am waiting for something happen. My white one has taken years to finally make a clump. But even one little plant is so lovely. I have lots of Trilliums as well. They seem to be pretty happy in my garden which is a nice bit of luck. Have read lots about Mt. Cuba but never been there, so I am looking forward to your report.

  8. Wonderful to see you writing about wonderful Mt. Cuba and its magnificent wildflowers. I live nearby and am fortunate to be enrolled its in Ecological Gardening Certificate program. One of my favorite courses was Native Plants of Spring – we watched the ephemerals unfold as the garden transformed from week to week.

  9. I see others have already pointed out the plant is a wood anemone, Anemone nemerosa, which usually has white flowers but some varieties are blue or purple.I have the wood anemone and trilliums both growing in my woodland garden, but I am have no trout lilies. They are so lovely; I must get some!

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