Purple Fawn Lily

Purple fawn lily (Erythronium purpurascens) flowers are creamy white with a yellowish base. So why the adjective “purple” in their common name? With age the white flowers turn purple, as in the one photograph.

One to six flowers comprise the inflorescence, located at the end of a leafless stem. The flowers are generally nodding. The six tepals (structures not distinguished as either sepals or petals) comprising the flower curl back.

Perennials, purple fawn lilies arise from an elongated rootstem. The two basal leaves are yellowish-green, not spotted and have the edges turned up forming a wavy margin.

The fruit is an ovid to oblong capsule containing brown seeds.

A member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae), purple fawn lily is endemic to California. It grows in damp woods between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. This cold-loving plant often flowers as the snow is melting.

Other colloquial names for E purpurascens are plainleaf fawn lily, avalanche lily and Sierra Nevada fawnlily. The genus name, Erythronium, comes from the Greek word for red and refers to the reddish leaf and flower color exhibited by some members of this genus. The species designation means “becoming purple” in Latin.

These purple fawn lily specimens were growing in June near the Kings Creek Picnic Area in Lassen Volcanic National Park (California).

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