Trout Lilies Have a Symbiotic Relationship with Ants
April 30, 2018
The Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), a spring ephemeral, blooms and reproduces in a short span of time between snow melt and leaf-out. These flowers have a symbiotic relationship with ants known as myrmecochory. Each seed has a coating called an elaisome, a mixture of fats and protein that appeals to ants. Ants carry the seeds back to their nests, feed the coating to their larvae, then dispose of the seeds, helping to disperse them throughout the forest. These plants also spread by runners.
The flower’s name is derived from the look of its leaf markings, which are similar to brook trout. Trout lilies are sterile the first 7 years of their life. Some North American colonies of trout lilies may be up to 300 years old!