VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Plant Pick: Pink Fawn Lily

Latin name:  Erythronium revolutum    

Common Name:  Pink Fawn Lily, Western Trout Lily, Dog-toothed Violet

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

This beautiful native plant in the lily family is known as the Western Trout Lily, or Fawn Lily which reflects the dark brown mottling on the leaves.  Erythronium revolutum is only one species of several native to the west coast of North America.

pink fawn lilies

Erythronium revolutum is a bulbous herbaceous perennial.  It grows from an oval-shaped bulb 3 – 5 cm (1 – 2 inches) long, hence the name dog-toothed violet.  It is actually in the lily family, one of about 22 species.  It is native to western North America, from coastal northern California to British Columbia including Vancouver Island.  Vancouver Island is known to have some particularly good and protected areas where these plants grow abundantly. 

Erythronium revolutum grows in moist understory areas with mixed conifer and deciduous trees within 100 miles of the coast at altitudes of less than 1000m.  It is slow-growing, taking 5 – 7 years to form a flowering size bulb, and therefore is slow to establish in new locations.

Each bulb sends up a long stalk bearing one or more star-shaped flowers.  The stalk bends at the end so that the face of the flower points to the ground.  There are six tepals in shades of pink or light purple which may have yellow or white spotting toward the centre of the flower.  The tepals may be straight or recurved.  They tend to recurve further as the flower ages.  The anthers are bright yellow and are a nice contrast to the pink open-faced flowers.

Erythronium revolutum is appreciated as an ornamental plant in local gardens.  The combination of attractively patterned leaves and delicate yet cheerful flowers in early to mid-spring make it a useful and sought-after plant.  The cultivar var. johnstonii has been awarded an Award of Garden Merit by the British Royal Horticultural Society. 

Photos courtesy Chris Southwick.

Form: bulbous herbaceous perennial

Foliage type: elliptic, wavy-margined 6- 8 inches long (15 – 20 cm)

Height/Width:  8 – 12 inches tall (20 – 30 cm), and 4 inches (20 cm) wide

Hardiness Zone:  Zone 6

Exposure:  It prefers some shade.

Flower Colour: shades of pink or light purple

Leaf Colour: deep elliptic, wavy green leaves, 6 – 8 in (15 – 20 cm) long, distinctively mottled dark brown.

Flower Time: mid-spring – March to early April

Preferred Soil and Watering:  It should be planted in shade, preferably under deciduous trees or shrubs in humus-rich soil that does not dry out and is damp in spring.  It will eventually naturalize over time. 

Other:  Some habitats are threatened in the wild by collection for horticulture and soil compaction by forest machinery.