Plant of the Week: Pagoda yellow dogtooth violet

As spring bulbs emerge, the glossy, mottled leaves of a plant called Erythronium 'Pagoda', also called Pagoda yellow dogtooth violet, can be seen. They bloom from mid-April to May. It is in the lily family (Liliaceae), and is also known as trout lily. The common name comes from the trout fish pattern on the leaves. The genus Erythronium has 20 to 30 species found in temperate forests and meadows in the Northern Hemisphere. On the High Line, you can find a hybrid of Erythronium tulumnense and Erythronium californicum 'White Beauty,' native to the West coast.

You may have seen Erythronium with spotted leaves in the mountains of New England if you are a hiker. The spotted leaf species are E. albidum and E. americanum, and are native to the East coast. It is fun to see similar plants in the wild that you see in gardens such as the High Line, like seeing an animal in the wild that you have seen in a zoo. West coast native species and cultivars, including Erythronium 'Pagoda', have marbled leaves instead of spotted leaves.

If you walk by the Chelsea Thicket now, you can find those beautiful leaves emerging from the ground. They will soon have lemon yellow-colored nodding flowers with brown rings inside of the petals and dark purple/brown stems. This plant can reach 12 to 14 inches tall. It is deer and rabbit tolerant, and is not susceptible to pest or disease.

Erythronium 'Pagoda' prefers humus rich, well-drained soil. Plant them about 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Partial shade is preferable rather than full sun. It needs some moisture even when it is dormant in summer. If the conditions are good for this plant, it will produce baby bulbs called bulbils besides the parent bulb. It thrives in USDA Zones 2 through 9.

You can find Erythronium 'Pagoda' in the Chelsea Thicket, between 20th and 22nd Streets.

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