When I first moved here I did what I always do, travel around the less used roads to get a feeling for the area. This area is quite different from where I had moved from (greater Vancouver) and the pace is slower. It feels more like the area I grew up in, more rural and yet near a big city. Every season brings new things to learn about and experience that are different from anywhere I have been. One of the wonders are the delicate Lilies which grow along the roads and are in bloom right now. Here the Erythronium oregonum used to be called the Easter Lilly. Now we call them White Fawn or WhiteTrout Lillies.
Children would pick arm loads of White Fawn Lillies and give them to their teachers because they they grew in such massive quantities. In some places they still grow thickly. Along Southgate Street which parallels Beacon Hill Park is a densely growing area of them which are readily seen as you walk or drive between Blanchard and Quadra Street. They are truly spectacular and many people who visit the area stop and ask what they are and then just have to take some pictures.
We are truly blessed on the west coast of North America with having 23 of the 27 known species of Erythronium. They range from pure white to a strong yellow as well as pink and shades of these colors. Vancouver Island has 4 species; oregonum and montanum are white, revolutum is pink and grandiflorum represents the yellows. Erythronium oregonum is the most common around this area.
There are many things that make Erythronium oregonum a choice plant for anywhere it would grow, the delicate flowers which dangle down high above the foliage, the foliage itself with it’s lovely yet subtle green and maroon tones, and the delicate seedpods which blow in the wind and are the only sign later that this plant has been here at all. It is said that ‘John Burroughs’ named the species ‘Fawn Lily’ because he felt the leaves reminded him of the ears of a fawn. Most People think the name refers to the mottled leaves which is similar to the spotting and streaking on young fawns which help them to hide better from predators. I think the White Trout Lily name comes from similar reasons.
Erythronium oregonum is definitely a connoisseur plant which we all dream about having in our garden, having said that, I know this is not an easy plant to grow. If you are lucky enough to have them already in your yard, you are indeed blessed. Last year I found one coming up in a area I had planted 10 years before, what a surprise. I already see it is blooming this year in the same spot. I truly hope it will spread itself and grow amongst the maroon colored Hellebores I have planted in the same area.
White Fawn Lillies are best grown in a site like which they come from. These are plants which grow in dappled sun, under deciduous trees. They need lots of moisture in their growing season which is in the first part of the year and then drier for the time that the seeds are ripening(if you want them) which is June and later. they are fairly tolerant of soil types as long as it’s not chalky and dry. They of course need rich soil which is well drained as these are very deeply rooted plants. It is best to acquire these plants form a reputable nursery which does not collect them from the wild.
Many areas where Erythronium oregonum live are being bulldozed to make way for city and road growth, fortunately for us there have been many areas set aside for the protection of native species. We are also becoming more aware of the beauty in which we live in and more of us are respectful of the sites where these and other rare local plants live. Right now amongst the White Fawn Lillies you might find the delicate magenta Dodecatheon blooming and then very soon it will be the spectacular blue Camas which takes over.
Links to This Week’s Featured Plant:
A list of all the Erythroium which grow throughout the world and links to pages about them.
A little about growing Erythroniums and something about the meaning of the name.
Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. http://www.beaconhillpark.com/
Until We Meet Again Later This Week…..