One theory is that they’re reckoned to open their flowers when the trout fishing season starts in the spring. Hmmm… surely trout lilies would have acquired their name back at a time when there were no official fishing seasons and people just went fishing when they were hungry?
The other reason offered is that the prettily marked trout lily leaves resemble the speckled flanks of a trout – which gives me an excuse to slip in a picture (click the image to enlarge) of this splendid fish I caught this week in our lake. Five pounds, perhaps a little more, I’d guess. And safely returned to the water – much to the astonishment of my more hard-hearted gastronomic friends.
I suppose you could stretch a point, both fish and foliage are prettily patterned… and the trout lily does often grow along river banks; my trout lily picture was taken about six feet from the water. The other trout lily question, of course is why do we so often see great sheets of pretty foliage in the wild with hardly a flower?
I’m told that Dr Fred Case, author of a superb book on trilliums, has the answer. Growing by riversides, and on woody slopes, the trout lily, Erythronium americanum, has to cope with the fact that riverflow or water runoff may wash away the soil. So it tends to sink its bulb deeper and deeper to prevent them too being washed away. But the bulbs may then end up so deep that they don’t have the energy to send both leaf and flower above ground, And if river silt and leaf litter are not washed away and build up over the bulbs, the shoots must struggle even harder to reach the light.
In the garden they just grow deeper and deeper and flower less and less. So the way to encourage them to flower is to plant them over a wide flat stone so that the bulbs cannot drop down deep.
And the way to catch a five pound trout in December with ice around the edges of the lake, is to fish slow and deep with a large lure.