Friday, April 23, 2010

Dwarf Trout Lilly


The last glacier stopped about 10,000 years ago just west of Northfield.  During this stressful time, a population of White Trout Lilies, Erythronium albidum (right photo), mutated into the Dwarf Trout Lily, Erythronium propullans (left photo). Dwarf Trout Lilies no longer reproduce sexually.  Instead they spout from single underground stems.  Their flowers are smaller (dime-sized) and usually fewer petaled (4-5 pedals vs. 6 on the White Trout Lily). 

If you want to see a Dwarf Trout Lily, the flowers are obviously much smaller than those of the much more common White Trout Lily.  If you are in doubt, the plant is probably the White Trout Lily.  The plant is a rare and endangered species, found only in Rice, Goodhue, and Steele counties of Minnesota.  These photos were taken in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park near Northfield.

Why don't more plants and animals give up sex?  Sex sounds like a pain in the neck.  You have to brush your teeth, comb your hair, get flowers at the florist, be relatively civil.  Some suggest that sex is more fun, but few have tried asexual reproduction, so I'm not sure how they could know for sure.  Evolutionary biologists suggest that sex creates more genetic variation, the stuff that evolution works on, and so sexually reproducing populations have the potential to evolve quickly and successfully.

See also http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/plants/dwarftro.html
files.dnr.state.mn.us/natural_resources/ets/dwarf_trout_lily.pdf

2 comments:

  1. One of my favorite early spring flowers in the Adirondack woods where I grew up were the yellow trout lilies.
    Never could figure out why they were also called dogtooth violets, since they obviously aren't violets. Discovered recently that the dogtooth part is because someone thought the roots looked like a dog's tooth. Why violets? Haven't discovered yet.

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  2. ......Some suggest that sex is more fun, but few have tried asexual reproduction, so I'm not sure how they could know for sure.....

    Dan, no one can ever accuse you of not being a fungi.

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