Glacier Lily

Erythronium graniflorum – Glacier Lily


Glacier LilyErythronium grandiflorum

Erythronium = e-rith-ron-ee-um, from erythronion, the Greek name of the plant or L. “red” (flower colours);

grandiflorum = grand-i-florum, “large flowered”;

Synonyms: Dog tooth violet, snow lily, fawn lily.

Identification: Glacier lily is a perennial herb, 20-30 cm high. It has a large, nodding yellow flower. The flowers are usually solitary, but occasionally there are up to three on a plant. The pair of basal leaves are oval-lanceolate. The roots are bulb-like.

Distribution & Habitat: This flower is so anxious to come out in the spring and show its beauty, one often sees it in snow beds or along alpine brooks.

Preparation & Uses: This plant is fairly rare and should only be eaten in emergencies. The bulbs of this plant, which may be boiled and/or dried for storage, are quite nutritious. The leaves and fresh green seed pods make good greens (some find them a bit laxative).

The seed pods can be eaten raw or cooked. Eating the seed pod will not destroy the plant, especially if you spread the seeds around first.

Another species, E. americanus, is listed medicinally as an emetic, emollient, and antiscorbutic when fresh. The fresh root has been simmered in milk, or the fresh bruised leaves applied as a soothing poultice for hard-to-heal ulcers. I have not tried it, but it is likely the E. grandiflorum has some of these qualities as well. Iroquois women ate raw leaves as a form of birth control. A water extract has been shown to have activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.