trout lily uses

Yellow Trout Lily Uses, Identification, and Habitat

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trout lily uses

Yellow Trout Lily Uses

Believe it or not, there are many yellow trout lily uses. From being an ancestral food source to having many medicinal properties. This is a little talked about plant that In my opinion deserves more attention.

Here in the Northeast, right around May, yellow trout lilies begin making their humble appearance. As an avid forager and someone interested in eating ancestrally, I welcome seeing these delicious trailside treats. I say trailside treats because eating these in excess can cause you to throw up, which would not be fun!

Commonly called trout lilies, fawn lilies, or dog’s-tooth violets, (Erythronium americanum) are ephemeral and only make their appearance for a very short time in early spring.  Enjoy foraging for them in April and May because by late June, they’ll be gone.

Have you ever stumbled across a yellow trout lily in the woods and just walked past it? If so, there’s a good chance that you did not know what it was. Yellow trout lily is an edible plant found in many parts of North America. In this article, we will discuss how to identify, forage, cook with yellow trout lily as well as precautions associated with consuming them.

trout lily uses

Identifying Yellow Trout Lily

There are two parts to identifying yellow trout lilies- their leaves and the flowers. Yellow trout lily has tulip-like green leaves with silvery-brownish mottled markings. These leaves grow up to ten inches long and have smooth edges that come to a point when they are fully grown.

The plants spread slowly to form colonies but can take many years to flower (around 7 years). The yellow trout lily flower is bright yellow with 6 petals and both male and female organs. These flowers are often seen blooming during the month of May.

Trout lily has no stem except for when it flowers and then it sends up a single flower that only lasts for a short time. 

What is the Habitat of Yellow Trout Lily?

Yellow trout lily is found in moist soil that has been shaded by other plants. The leaves are often seen at the base of a tree or on rocks near streams and ponds.

The yellow trout lily prefers to grow along creeks, rivers, lakes, bogs, marshes, and swamps but it can also be found growing in wet forests or any place where there is rich alluvial soil with an abundance of moisture.

trout lily uses

Harvesting Yellow Trout Lilies

Yellow trout lily grows in colonies that are extremely slow-growing. If you stumble upon a large colony that covers the forest floor, it’s likely that this colony was hundreds of years in the making, therefore it’s extremely important to harvest ethically

Trout lily plants have only one leaf until it matures, then it has two. Trout lily has both above and below-ground parts (a small corm) that are edible.

Because these plants are so slow-growing and harvesting the corm kills the plant, I choose to only harvest the leaves.  This ensures that the plants return year after year. In addition to that, the corms are small and take a bit of effort to dig up. I am reluctant to dedicate the time necessary to get enough to make it worth my while when the leaves are often so widespread and plentiful.

Cooking Yellow Trout Lily

As an ingredient for ancestral diets is one of yellow trout lily uses. Native Americans have been making use of this wild edible for eons.  If you’d like to incorporate more wild edibles into your diet, then trout lily might be just what your looking for,although not much can be found regarding its nutritional content.

All I do know is that trout lily can be cooked as you would any other green, but I prefer them raw as a garnish or added sparingly to a salad. They are definitely an accompaniment and NOT the main course. 

What are the Medicinal Uses of Yellow Trout Lily?

Trout Lily has a rich history in traditional herbal medicine, where it has been valued for its diverse properties. Historically, it has been recognized for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, lymphatic, wound-healing, and nervine qualities.

In traditional practices, Trout Lily has been used to address urinary tract conditions such as cystitis and nephritis, as well as inflammations of the mucous membranes, edema, chronic skin conditions, and stress-related issues like anxiety, insomnia, and muscle tension.

The plant has also been traditionally used to make tea from all its parts, believed to help reduce fevers, stomach ulcers, tumors, and swollen glands. Additionally, the leaves have been applied topically to wounds, rashes, and burns.

Trout Lily has also been noted for its historical use as a contraceptive for women, though the exact mechanism behind this use remains unclear. Interestingly, this plant contains alpha-methylene-butyrolactone, a compound that binds to cancerous cells and inhibits their reproduction, leading some to speculate about its potential as a cancer remedy.


Trout lily is ematic, meaning that it can induce vomiting. I personally have not had an issue eating them along the trailside or added to a salad, but some people might have a sensitivity to this plant. It’s important to exercise caution when eating a new plant and never eat a plant without 100% accurate identification. If you’re unsure, then skip it. 

Trout lily can apparently also interfere with conception, so, be aware if you are trying to get pregnant. 


Here's what's Included

The Foraging Companion  is a 106 page downloadable feature-laden guide for common wild and naturalized edible plants of temperate North America.


The Outdoor Apothecary website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

1 thought on “Yellow Trout Lily Uses, Identification, and Habitat”

  1. I appreciate your article, however, it is not in the best interest of the trout lily to harvest it. The species play a critical role in the forest ecosystem. They stabilize soils, contribute important nutrients, and sustain native bee populations.

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