Glacier Lily
Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh
Family: Liliaceae, Lily
Genus: Erythronium
Other names: dogtooth lily, avalanche lily
Nomenclature: grandiflorum = large flowered
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant

General: perennial, the stems 10-40 cm tall, leafless, unbranched, from deep, elongated, bulb-like corms. Often growing in large patches.

Leaves: basal, 1 pair, bright green, not mottled, narrowly to broadly oblong-elliptic, 10-20 cm long, narrowed rather gradually to broad stalks.

Flowers: usually solitary, nodding. Tepals lanceolate, 4-8 mm broad near the base, cream to bright yellow, 25-35 mm long, curved backward. Filaments white, linear, the anthers white, yellow or brown, or somewhat purplish, up to 10-12 mm long before opening and scarcely half as long afterward. Style slender, stigmas rather thick, 1-2 mm long, spreading. April-August.

Fruits: capsules, erect, 3-sided, club-shaped, 3-4 cm long.


Moist, shaded to open sites, sagebrush slopes to montane forest, sometimes to near treeline, in w. and s.c. parts of MT. Also from s. B.C., WA and OR to WY and CO.
ssp. grandiflorum:
Edible Uses

The bulb-like underground stems, called corms, were an important food for some tribes, and dried bulbs were a popular trade item. They are edible raw, but like onions, they are made sweeter and more easily digestible by cooking. Drying also helps this process. The corms sometimes cause a burning sensation, and too many can cause vomiting. The leaves are also edible raw or cooked, and the fresh, green seed pods are said to taste like string beans when cooked, but most tribes used only the corms. Bears and rodents eat the roots and the seed pods are grazed by deer and elk.

Medicinal Uses

The pulverized root was applied to boils and as a wet dressing on skin sores by the Montana Indians. The Okanagan-Colville tribe used the corms as a treatment for bad colds.

Sub taxa:

ssp. candidum Piper:
Tepals white or cream with yellow band at base.

ssp. grandiflorum Pursh:
Tepals pale to deep yellow. Stigmas 1-2 (3) mm. long.

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