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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A tiny delight

Nestled within the serene landscapes of Minnesota lie the delicate and rare dwarf trout lilies (Erythronium propullans), a species of wildflower that faces the threat of extinction. It is endemic to the Cannon River and North Fork Zumbro River watersheds, specifically Rice County, Goodhue County and Steele County. Recognizing the limited region that the plant inhabits and the extensive habitat destruction that has ensued, the dwarf trout lily is a federally recognized endangered species. Sitting at three to four inches tall, its subtle beauty and limited habitat serve as a symbol of the region’s biodiversity and are a reminder of the necessity of conservation. 

This delightful species is related to, and frequently confused with, the more common white trout lily (Erythronium albidum, see last week’s Arb Notes), from which it is thought to have evolved no more than 9,000 years ago, shortly after the last glaciation. The species are often found together. However, , during the flowering period extending from mid-April to mid-May, they may be differentiated by the dwarf’s unmistakably smaller flowers. The dwarf, additionally, typically has four to five tepals, whereas the white has six. The two may hybridize and produce fruit. However, the dwarf rarely produces fruit on its own; it instead relies on spreading vegetatively via stolons (horizontal stems) buried just beneath the surface. 

While the dwarf trout lily cannot be found in the Arb, white trout lilies are a lovely alternative.Consider venturing into the nearby Nerstrand Big Woods State Park during the brief yet plentiful flowering season of these wonderful trout lilies. Erythronium albidum_DwarfAndRegularTroutLilies_ByMNDNR (2) (1)

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