This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(from the Greek word for red, applied to the purple-rose European species). Liliaceae. Dog's-Tooth Violet (although in no sense a violet). Adder's-Tongtje. Small spring-flowering hardy scapose bulbous plants.
Erythroniums have bulbs standing erect and from oblong to linear in form, 2 radical leaves, which in most species are handsomely mottled: scape slender and leafless, producing from 1 to many nodding very attractive flowers; perianth of 6 similar divisions, usually recurved; stamens 6 and a single 3-lobed style: fruit an oblong or obovoid more or less 3-angled loculicidal caps. - Handsome plants of the north temperate zone. One belongs to the Old World, 4 to E. N. Amer., 2 are found in the Rocky Mts., while in the cool woods and high mountains from N. Calif, to the British possessions the genus is represented by about 9 species and a number of well-marked varieties. The species are confused or variable. The first and perhaps second year from seed, the plants bear a single If. and do not bloom. Some of the species spread in large patches, by means of underground stolons. The bulb is scaly outside but with a solid interior, being really a corm.
The erythroniums are most interesting spring flowers. They succeed in any light soil, particularly in partial shade. In common with all herbaceous perennials, especially those that produce bulbs or corms, they profit by a winter mulch of leaves or litter. - The western erythroniums are all plants of the cool woodlands, except a few that grow at such altitudes as to reach like conditions. They thrive best in shade, a thoroughly drained soil, moist and rich in mold, a surface covering of half rotten leaves tending to equalize conditions. Any good fibrous material, as fibrous peat, coconut fiber or spent tanbark, or even well-rotted sod, will answer the purpose to lighten the soil and give that abundance of mold they delight in. Pockets in shaded rockwork give ideal situations. They will thrive naturalized on cool wooded slopes; and where the drainage is good they will thrive in grass. The leaves ripen before the grass is cut and the effect is very good. Simply planted in boxes in a loose soil, rich in mold, and left year after year in a shaded spot, they sometimes give splendid bloom. E. Hartwegii flowers very early, and stands more heat and dryness than any other variety.
E. purpurascens and E. montanum, from high altitudes, tend to throw up their growth very late, and are on that account rather difficult to cultivated All of the western species are very satisfactory garden plants. - The propagation of E. Dens-Canis and varieties, the eastern American species and E. Hartwegii, is by offsets. All of the other western species can be increased only by seeds. The eastern species should be planted at least 5 inches deep. When planting erythronium bulbs, cover with 2 inches of earth; as the bulbs themselves may be 2 inches long, this means that the holes should be 4 inches deep. .
A. Old-World Erythroniums. Flowers always solitary, and without a crest near base of inner petals: leaves handsomely mottled: offsets few.
1. Dens-Canis, Linn. stem 4-6 in. high: leaves oval-acuminate, rounded at the base, blotched or patched with reddish brown: flowers drooping, rose-colored, rose-purple or lilac; segments strongly reflexed, narrow, long-pointed. Cent. Eu., Japan, in several forms. Gn. 76, p. 649. - Variations are white, rose-colored or flesh-colored. variety longifolium, Hort., varies in its narrower leaves and larger fls; variety majus, Hort., is apparently a form of this. variety sibiricum, Hort., from the Altai Mts., is taller. The species thrives in a moist open garden soil, and exposed to the sun. Often used in rock-gardens. Little known in American gardens.
aa. East -American Erythroniums. - Flower solitary, without a crest on inner petals: mostly producing offsets.
2. americanum, Ker. Common Adder's-Tongue. Fig. 1420. Scape 6-10 in., from an ovoid bulb that produces offshoots: leaves elliptic- or oblong-lanceolate, mottled with purple-brown and whitish: flowers yellow, the segments recurved, the 3 inner ones auricled at base; stigmas united. E. Canada, to Fla. and Ark., in rich low grounds, particularly in or near woods. Runs into many forms. The following names belong with it: E. lanceo-latum, Pursh; E. angustatum, Raf.; E. bracteatum, Boott.
Fig. 1420. Erythronium americanum. (X 1/2)
3. albidum, Nutt. White Adder's-Tongue. Producing offshoots: leaves not mottled, narrow: flowers pinkish white, yellow at base; segments recurved, not auricled; stigmas spreading. Ont. and N. Y. to Minn, and Texas.
4. mesachoreum, Knerr. Without basal offshoots: leaves not mottled, narrowly oblong to linear-lanceolate: flowers lavender, the segments not recurved; stigmas spreading; earlier than the last. Iowa to Kans. and Mo.
5. propullans, Gray. Bulb ovoid: offshoots arising from near middle of the stem: leaves small, green or slightly mottled: flowers rose-colored, with yellow base; style slender and stigmas united. S. Ont. and Minn.
aaa. West-American Erythroniums. - Flowers 2-4, some' times more (rarely only 1-flowered). - The leaves are richly mottled, except in E. grandiflorum. The corms do not produce offsets, except in E. Hartwegii. Inner petals with auricles, except in E. Howellii. All except E. purpurascens have large and showy flowers
b. Style 3-cleft.
6. grandiflorum, Pursh (E. giganteum, Lindl.). Scape 1-2 ft. high: leaves broadly lanceolate, to 6 in. long, acute and short-cuspidate, unmottled: scape slender, 3-5-flowered; flowers very bright yellow; petals recurved; anthers yellow. E. Ore. to Brit. Col. variety album, Hort. (E. montanum, Hort.). Like the type, except the flowers are white, yellowish at center, and with a slight greenish cast. variety minus, Morr., is smaller. - E. grandiflorum grows from very high mountains to (at one point) little above the sea-level. In cult, the high mountain form starts very late and is difficult to grow, while the sea-level form (variety robustum, Purdy) is an easy subject. In some localities the anthers are red, as in variety Nut-tallianum, Purdy (E. Nuttallianum, Schult.), in others both red and yellow, but as a rule yellow. The so-called var, minor is small merely from less favorable situation. By some, the E. giganteum, Lindl., is kept distinct. G.C. III. 43:212. J.H. 111.58:397. G.M.53:359.
7. parviflorum, Goodd. The Cent. Rocky Mt. form of E. grandiflorum: scape 4-12: leaves oblong, tapering both ways: flowers usually solitary, bright yellow, greenish in the bottom; segments lanceolate-acuminate, about 1 in. long, strongly recurved; anthers pale yellow. - A sub-alpine species.
8. californicum, Purdy. Leaves richly mottled: flowers few to as many as 16; petals revolute and broader, creamy to light yellow, deeper at the center and often marked maroon at base. In the Coast Ranges of Calif., San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Co. - In cult, the most satisfactory East. The description of E. revolu-tum variety Watsonii in Cyclo. Amer. Hort., also covers E. californicum. G. 32:424.
9. Hartwegii, Wats. Bulb-bearing offsets freely on filiform stolons from the base: leaves mottled: flowers 1-6, mostly in a sessile umbel, large, light yellow-orange at center and white or cream-color above. Foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts. in Calif. G.C. III. 20:361; 43:215. - The plant appears to have several scapes because the umbel is sessile but each flower is on a pedicel.
10. revolutum, Smith. Leaves 1-4, mottled in white and light brown: flowers nearly always 1 or 2; petals narrow and curved; style large and stout; filaments from subulate (awl-shaped) to deltoid, opening from white flushed with pink to pinkish purple, becoming purple. J.H.
III. 35:523; 43: 268. variety Bo-landerii is not separable from the type. Pink Beauty is a soft pink form found in Humboldt County, Calif. variety albiflorum, Hort. (variety Wat-sonii, Purdy. E. giganteum variety albiflorum, Hort. E. grandiflorum variety albiflorum, Hook.). Flowers pure white with a greenish cast, often banded maroon at base; petals slender; a very beautiful plant. B.M. 5714. F.S. 20:2117. G.C. III. 3:556; 15:621. variety Johnsonii, Purdy (E. Johnsonii, Bolander). Very similar to the type, but leaves mottled in dark brown and looking as if coated in varnish, and flowers dark rose with orange center. Gn. 51:136. G.C. III. 19:549; 25:253. variety praecox, Purdy. Leaves mottled in mahogany, the most beautifully of any erythronium: the flowers, usually 2-4, are creamy white with orange center.
11. montanum, Wats. Scape slender, to 18 in., 1-3-flowered: leaves not mottled, broad-lanceolate to nearly ovate, contracted into a winged petiole; perianth pure white, orange at base. On high mountains of Ore. and Wash. - Very difficult to cult, as the bulbs start very late; one of the most beautiful.
bb. Style not divided.
12. citrinum, Wats. Rather stout, to 10 in., 1-9-flowered, the flowers close together and opening at about the same time: leaves mottled, very broad-lanceolate, obtuse and short-apiculate, attenuate to a very short petiole: petals broad, strongly recurved, light yellow, orange at center, the tips becoming pink. S. Ore. Gn.M. 6:65.
13. Hendersonii, Wats. Fig. 1421. Slender, to 12 in., 1-3-flowered: leaves mottled in dark brown, lanceolate to oblong, obtuse and short-apiculate, narrowed to a short petiole: petals strongly recurved, pale purple, with a very dark purple, almost black, center. S. Ore. G.F.
Fig. 1421. Erythronium Hendersonii: (x 1/2)
1:317 (adapted in Fig. 1421). G.C. III. 3:653; 15:623; 43:213. Gn. M. 6:65. Gn.W. 22:375. B.M. 7017.
14. purpurascens, Wats. Leaves undulate, not mottled but shaded in dark metallic tints: flowers small, spreading, crowded in a raceme, light yellow (almost white), center orange, becoming purplish. Sierras. - A very small-fid, erythronium, with 1-8 flowers crowded together. This species grows at 5,000-7,000 ft. altitude in the Sierras. While under some conditions it is low-growing, under other conditions it equals in size and height the most robust species. At the lower altitudes of its habitat snow covers the ground until early May and this plant flowers shortly afterward; it remains very dry in summer and fall.
15. Howellii, Wats. Rather slender, to 18 in., 1-3-flowered: leaves mottled, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, usually acute and short-apiculate: flowers pale yellow with orange base, becoming pinkish. S. Ore. - Of the Pacific coast erythroniums, this alone is destitute of the ear-shaped appendages at inner base of petal.
Carl Purdy and L. H. B.