Monday, April 16, 2012

White and Dwarf Trout-lilies

One of the thrills of living in Minnesota is the blooming of the spring ephemerals. These April wildflowers bloom before the tree leaves shade the forest floor. On Sunday Erika and I found the Big Woods State Park awash in trout-lilies. We found both the abundant White Trout-lily (lower right) and the rare Dwarf Trout-lily (lower left). As its name implies, the Dwarf Trout-lily's flower, hardly larger than a dime, is far smaller than the normal species. The Dwarf Trout-lily is restricted to several east-central Minnesota counties. I have previously blogged on these two species and speculated on how the dwarf species evolved.
Princeton University Press recently published a new book, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast. I recommend it for those interested in wildflowers. Many of the species of that region are also found in Minnesota. From the book, I learned that Trout-lilies contain an antibiotic called tulipalin A, which can cause allergic skin reactions. Native uses of the plant, however, include, after lengthy preparation, consuming trout-lily bulbs (both as a winter staple, but also as an emeitc). Perhaps due to the antibiotic, crushed leaves were also used as a poultice for skin sores.

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