Erythronium propullans (Dwarf Trout Lily)

Plant Info
Also known as: Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily, Minnesota Fawnlily, Minnesota Adder's-tongue
Family:Liliaceae (Lily)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Federally Endangered
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:3 to 4 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flower] A single tiny flower, about ¼ inch long and 1/3 to ½ inch across when open, nods down at the end of a naked stem about 3 inches long. There are 4 to 6 tepals (petals) that curve back, with only a small percent of flowers having the 6 tepals typical for lilies. The petal color ranges from white to pinkish or lavender. The yellow-tipped stamens are of unequal length. The flowers close up at night.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] There are 1 or 2 basal leaves, generally elliptical, tapering to a point at both ends, with smooth edges and short stalks. Immature, non-flowering plants have 1 leaf, flowering plants have 2 leaves of unequal lengths, the longer leaf up to 6 inches long and ¾ inch wide. The color is mottled green and brown. Leaves may be curled or folded lengthwise some, or opened flat.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is very rarely produced. Plants primarily spread vegetatively through underground stolons


Dwarf Trout Lily is endemic to 3 counties in southern Minnesota—it grows nowhere else on earth, though it was transplanted at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis and the UM Arboretum in Carver County. Many people have reported finding Dwarf Trout Lily in other locations, but it invariably turns out to be the related and much more common White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum), with which it often grows side by side and sometimes hybridizes and may produce fruit. When not flowering, the Dwarf is not easily distinguished from other trout lilies, though the leaves are slightly smaller than those of the average White Trout Lily. When in bloom, the flower size difference is unmistakable, plus the Dwarf typically has only 4 tepals where White always has 6. According to the DNR, is thought by some that Dwarf Trout Lily is a White Trout Lily that mutated when the last glacier came through the area. It was listed as a Minnesota State Endangered species in 1984 and Federally Endangered in 1986.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Rice County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, Minneapolis.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jacqui - Jefferson Lake, LeSeuer county
on: 2009-08-16 19:07:14

We have the honor of seeing this flower every spring at our lake cabin on Jefferson Lake (middle) in LeSeuer County along with Dutchmen's britches. We may eventually build on this spot and I am interested in finding out how to relocate these delicate plants to a safer spot on our land. Any suggestions??

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-08-16 21:44:42

Since dwarf trout lily is an endangered species you will need a permit to do anything with it, even on your own land. You should contact the DNR for more information.

Posted by: Mary Beth
on: 2009-11-21 12:33:31

In addition to being endangered in Minnesota, the dwarf trout lily is also on the federally endangered list. It grows only in three Minnesota counties. The Minnesota DNR states that attempts to propagate the plant have been unsuccessful, serving only to further reduce the existing population. Biologists have also told me that attempts to move dwarf trout lily failed. Can you build around the site?

Posted by: Annie - Burnsville
on: 2011-05-07 23:12:55

I had the pleasure of finding the small patch of Dwarf Trout Lilies at Big Woods State Park. There were only 5 dwarfs amongst many regular Trout lilies. Very neat experience.

Posted by: Lloyd - Lake Zumbro out by the Ponderosa Supper Club
on: 2012-05-07 18:53:43

they are all over I have looked before and I believe are the Drawf trout lily. We have been out here for 20 years and bloom every year.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-05-07 21:01:19

Lloyd, the common white trout lily is often mistaken for the dwarf, which is only naturally occuring in 3 Minnesota counties: Goodhue, Steele, and Rice What you saw was not likely the dwarf, but both are nice plants to encounter. :-)

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