As the snow disappear in the high alpine, one of the first plants to flower is the Yellow Glacier-Lily, Erythronium grandiflorum. From late May through early July, you’ll find this magnificent yellow flower growing in patches along many of K-Country’s high alpine trails.
Glacier-Lilies are also known as Snow-Lily, Avalanche Lily, Fawn Lily, Trout Lily, Adder’s Tongue or Dogtooth Violet (though it is not a violet). They like moist avalanche slopes, especially the run-out zones where the soil is richer and less rocky.
It’s very easy to identify. Two long green leaves rise up and apart. In the middle, a single stunningly yellow flower with curled-back leaves droops down.
Of high importance
This plant is exceptionally important. To Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, and rodents like Marmots, the rooting bulb and corm are a delicacy. Since they tend to grow in large patches, grizzlies in particular target this plant all through the flowering season. Often in the high alpine in mid-summer, the dig remnants you see are the evidence of late spring feeding on Glacier-Lily. Once the flowers turn to seed, the seed pods are eaten by deer, Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats.
To Indigenous people, this plant was a valued food source. The bulb and thinner corm are much like an onion. It can be eaten raw, but improves with cooking, or even drying. The leaves and seed pods are also edible raw or cooked. But the bulb was the primary target for food. Crushing the bulb and mixing it with water gave them a poultice for boils, blisters and burns.
However, modern collection of this plant for the bulb and corm has decimated populations outside parks. Take the bulb, and the plant dies, with no seed pods ever being produced. No matter where you see a Glacier-Lily, admire it, but leave it be.
See some of the other stunning flowers of K-Country here!