Plant Collector: Erythronium revolutum

The transient delight of dogs tooth violets - Erythronium revolutum

The transient delight of dogs tooth violets – Erythronium revolutum

Of all the fleeting seasonal delights, the dogs tooth violets or erythroniums might take the award for ephemera. They are so pretty and dainty and they are here today and gone pretty soon after. We probably only get ten days out of them in flower and a bad bout of weather can knock the display for the year. But we still get a great deal of pleasure from them. The flowers are like nodding hats while the compact foliage is often gently mottled or marbled in green and maroon.

There are about 20 different species, all in the Liliaceae family, but some of them just won’t perform in our climate. Many prefer cooler conditions and dry summers. As far as we know, what we have are mainly seed raised E. revolutum which is native to the west coast of USA. They thrive in humus rich conditions on woodland margins where the soil stays moist and there are reasonable light levels. The corms are interesting, being long and narrow and alarmingly easy to snap in two when disturbed. They find their own depth, often burrowing down quite deep, out of harm’s way.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.