Stems: scape stout. Leaves: broadly lanceolate, acute, pale green. Flowers: one to several in a terminal raceme; perianth broadly funnelform, of six distinct segments: outer ones lanceolate, obtuse; inner ones narrower, acuminate, with four stout hyaline teeth at base, all strongly revolute.
A lovely yellow flower, frequently called "Snow Lily," from the fact that it grows in such close proximity to the great alpine neves. "Dog-tooth Violet" is yet another name for this plant, and refers more particularly to the white bulb, which is supposed to resemble the canine teeth of a dog.
Adder's Tongue probably refers to the pointed anthers, which are six in number and extremely conspicuous; but "Snow Lily" is by far the more appropriate designation for a blossom which appears at the edge of the avalanches and follows the retreating line of the snow when the warm spring sunshine melts the great white masses in the valleys and sets the flowers free. At high altitudes you will often see numbers of pale green pointed leaves forcing their way up through the soft covering, and myriads of bright yellow blossoms rising but a few inches above the thin carpet of frozen crystals. From between two or three of these large leaves (somewhat like those of the Lily-of-the-Valley) springs the slender stalk, which terminates in a single bud, or occasionally in a small raceme of drooping golden bells. Soon the six pointed segments of the perianth unfold and expand, gradually rolling backwards until they become completely recurved, leaving the whole length of the stamens exposed. These segments, or floral leaves, are an exquisite shade of yellow, softening to cream colour at the base in the centre. The style bears at its summit a deeply three-cleft stigma, each division thereof being also recurved.
Great colonies of Yellow Adder's Tongues grow in the mountains, where their faint fragrance scents the air with a delicious perfume. Late at evening, when beneath the star-sown purple of the sky you return from making some alpine ascent, the pure flames of these wild Lilies gleam in their leafy setting with a pale golden light, and illuminate the green brink of your path; and when the noonday is glorified, and the flag of the sun floats top-masted in the skies, then "You see gems in yellow Nodding, each one, to his fellow, Strewing all the country lanes With divinely builded fanes, Where the benisons are breathed but never spoken."
Yellow Adder's Tongue (Erythronium grandiflorum)
Eryihronium grandiHorum var. parviflorum, or Small Yellow Adder's Tongue, is not so tall as the preceding species, and has rather narrower leaves and smaller flowers.