Bigelow Prairie Pioneer Cemetery (Ohio) State Nature Preserve

The first prairie I ever saw was a prairie pioneer cemetery in central Ohio.  The visit was an ecological epiphany and set me on the course to a career in ecological restoration.

It was in the early 1970’s and I had the opportunity to go on a field trip sponsored by the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  The field trip began in Columbus, OH on a Sunday afternoon in July.  We carpooled for what seemed like hours through the flat and unchanging agricultural landscape of central Ohio.   The Ohio landscape was much like what one sees in central Illinois, northern Indiana, and parts of Iowa–it’s America’s Corn Belt and former prairie land.   At the time I had no inkling of what a prairie was, let alone an idea of what a prairie pioneer cemetery was all about.  But I guessed I was going to find out.

Western and central Ohio is the eastern-most extent of America’s  once-great prairie peninsula, thus parts of the state did have a true prairie landscape.  And, like most of the prairie peninsula, that prairie landscape has been reduced to small and scattered remnants.   The survivors of the extensive prairie are found today along railroad rights-of-way, steep and rocky hillsides, in other neglected spots, and in the cemeteries of the European pioneers who conquered the prairie ecosystem.

These pieces of the original prairie survived because they were either never plowed or were only lightly grazed or mowed once every great while. Remnants along RR tracts also benefited from the occasional fire sparked by passing trains.

Our caravan eventually turned off the main road and then rattled down several miles of dusty gravel roads through a maze of towering corn stalks.   When we turned in to a small roadside pull-off we were there.    An old cemetery in front of us filled with colorful and unfamiliar plants and corn fields on all sides–the sight was amazing.

To see a piece of the virgin prairie–even if a tiny patch–is today a special event and those of us on the trip were very fortunate to visit Bigelow Prairie Pioneer Cemetery.  I was struck by many things.  For one, the area was small, just about one half acre.  For another, the adjacent fields were a good 8″ below the grade of the virgin prairie; one had to step up from the fields into the cemetery.   The height differential, the tour guide explained,  represented the amount of soil that had been lost through wind erosion over the years.

I was also impressed by the plants I was seeing for the first time.  Some of the new plants, I learned, were native to Ohio (to me a new and intriguing concept).  Among the prairie plants in the cemetery were big bluestem, cup plant, and royal catchfly.  I did not have a camera with me that day so you will have to visit the website of the Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve to get an idea of what it looks like today. 

The tour group wandered through the cemetery for a couple hours, looking at the old gravestones, examining the prairie grasses and flowers, guessing their identify, and pausing in the shade of the few open-grown oaks to cool off on a very hot day.

In 1978, Bigelow Cemetery was dedicated as an Ohio interpretive state nature preserve. According to the website:  “A special management program for the preservation of the historic tombstones, perpetuation of the prairie species and elimination of noxious weeds was initiated following dedication by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.”

If you get a chance, stop in to see Bigelow.  It is a piece of our natural heritage.  Bigelow and places like it across the country need to be managed, preserved, and perpetuated.


Posted in Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, Ohio Division of State Natural Areas and Preserves, Prairie pioneer cemetery, Prairie plants | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fall Color of the Prairies and Savannas

It’s not too late to enjoy the beauty of fall on the prairie, savanna, or oak woodland near you.  The prairie does not produce the brilliant yellows, oranges and reds of the northern forest, but rather has a more quiet appeal and subtle beauty.


Fringed gentian (Gentianoposis crinita). A native annual or biennial that likes moist conditions; often found in wet meadows and near streams.

The images shown are of restored prairies in central Wisconsin, all within an hour’s drive–or, in some cases,  an easy bike ride–from Madison.  Some are urban and others in rural Wisconsin.  Chances are there are many restorations and natural areas near you to visit.

Fall scenes at the Aldo Leopold Foundation

Aldo’s Prairie at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

The pleasures of the prairie are best enjoyed on a hike through one of our local nature preserves and restoration sites.  A few suggestions for trip planning would include:  Cherokee Marsh, a unit of City of Madison Parks;  Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, WI; The Swamplovers Preserve on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail as well as Dane County’s Festge County Park, both near Cross Plains.

Sunrise over Curtis Prairie

Early morning October light on Curtis Prairie in the UW-Madison Arboretum

And early morning is a good time for a peaceful walk in your local prairie restoration.

Fall scenes at the Aldo Leopold Foundation

Prairie smoke and oak leaf at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

One often needs to slow down and look closely to enjoy the fall colors of the prairie.

04 Steve Glass "Fall in the Arboretum"

Fall in the UW-Madison Arboretum on the edge of Curtis Prairie.

Curtis Prairie, one of the world’s earliest restoration projects.

For prairie viewing trips further afield, think about the International Crane Foundation, near Baraboo, WI; or Goose Pond Sanctuary, a project of Madison Audubon Society, near Arlington, WI

The "Shack" and Aldo's Prairie at The Aldo Leopold Foundation

Aldo Leopold’s Prairie adjacent to Leopold’s Shack at the Aldo Leopold Foundation near Barabo, Wisconsin.

Aldo’s Prairie is sixty miles from the UW-Madison Arboretum’s Curtis Prairie.  According to Leopold family members, work on this restoration project began the same year–1935– as plantings in Curtis Prairie were initiated.

Posted in "The Shack", Aldo Leopold, Curtis Prairie, Fall foliage, Prairie forbs, Prairie plants, Prairie restoration, Restoration ecology, The Aldo Leopold Foundation | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Walker Promises Foxconn Deal Will be “Transformational” for Wisconsin

Some Think What He Has in Mind is Transforming (eliminating) Wisconsin’s Environmental Regulations

As you may know, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has signed an incentives agreement with Foxconn, the giant Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, to build a liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturing plant to southeast Wisconsin’s Racine and Kenosha Counties.

Governor Walker’s incentives package has now become Assembly Bill 1.   AB 1 establishes an Electronics and Information Technology Manufacturing Zone and exempts any new manufacturing facility located within that zone from all state wetland and waterway permit requirements.

For example, as we reported in an earlier post, AB1 would permit Foxconn to alter the direction of streams, build man-made bodies of water that connect with natural waterways, and dredge, fill, and discharge into wetlands with authorization from the State Department of Natural Resources (Wisconsin State Journal July 29, 2017.).     This, despite the fact that it is unreasonable to exempt a project this size from an environmental impact statement and accepted environmental standards.

Legislation Moving Quickly

Last week the Wisconsin Assembly held hearings on AB1. And on Thursday (August 17) the Assembly voted to approve the legislative package and sent it on to the Wisconsin Senate. The senate is also expected to pass the measure despite stiff opposition from the public, some lawmakers, and concerns about the economic costs (tax breaks for Foxconn) and potential environmental impacts (no environmental impact statement would be required).

Proponents of the legislation argue that the economic incentives and relaxation (read: abandonment) of environmental regulations are necessary to land this once-in-a-lifetime job-creating deal.

Until now, objections to, and questions about, the Foxconn deal have centered on the details of the economic package. But those concerns, though valid, miss the real long-term impact, which, as the Wisconsin Wetlands Association points out, is a precedent-setting rollback of environmental safeguards. And, by misdirecting the discussion, and hoping the public will focus exclusively on the financial giveaway, Walker and partners hope we will not notice the larger trick they are pulling—rolling back hard earned, fair, and common sense environmental standards.

According to a WWA analysis of AB1:

The wetland impacts from the project may or may not be substantial.  We won’t know until Foxconn selects a site.  We do know that the changes to wetland law enacted in 2012 provide more than enough flexibility to approve permits to construct a facility like Foxconn. The proposed exemptions are unnecessary in an altered landscape like Southeast Wisconsin.”

As the WWA points out, because under wetland law enacted in 2012 “. . There is more than enough flexibility to approve permits to construct a facility like Foxconn. The proposed exemptions are unnecessary in an altered landscape like Southeast Wisconsin” (WWA, 2017)

Read the full WWA statement on Foxconn deal:

What Natural Features Are at Stake?

True, southeast Wisconsin, one of the state’s most populous and saturated with industry and commerce, is an altered landscape. But, there are still many valuable environmental features in Kenosha and Racine Counties, including several State Natural Areas (SNAs).

State Natural Areas “harbor natural features essentially unaltered by human-caused disturbances or that have substantially recovered from disturbance over time. The finest of these sites are considered for establishment as State Natural Areas (WIDNR 2005).

The People of Wisconsin own and manage eight designated state natural areas in southeast Wisconsin: three in Racine County and five in Kenosha

In addition, there are several wetlands that have such ecological significance that the Wisconsin Wetlands Association has designated them Wetland Gems. There are only 100 such wetland gems in the entire state, four of which are found in Racine and Kenosha Counties.

There is some overlap between SNAs and Wetland Gems. Chiwaukee Prairie, and Renak-Polak Maple Beech Woods have the added significance and ecological importance of being designated as both SNAs and Wetland Gems.

State Assault on Environmental Protections

These, and other State Natural Areas and Wetland Gems could be impacted either directly or indirectly by the activities of the Foxconn plant construction and operation, but we don’t know. We don’t know because the prospective site has not been revealed.   However, the broader point, as made eloquently and forcefully by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association is that what is at stake is precedent.   If Foxconn is allowed to get away scot free with environmental degradation then there will no stopping the next company that comes calling on Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature.  If AB1 passes in its current form then the state will have a playbook by which to review and approve all future construction projects—large or small–in the state.

“Make no mistake…this is an attack on Wisconsin’s protections for isolated wetlands and an attack on Wisconsin’s long-standing tradition of protecting public waters for public benefit.  From what we see in the news, it is also a calculated, incremental step in a broader campaign to eliminate Wisconsin’s wetland regulatory program all together.” (WWA, 2017).

Federal Assault Also Likely in One-Two Punch

According to a New York Times report (NYT 08.16.17 by Lisa Friedman) Donald Trump announced on Tuesday (08.15.17) “that he had signed a sweeping executive order to eliminate and streamline some permitting regulations and to speed construction of roads, bridges, and pipelines.”

The Trump federal rollback combined with Walker’s desire to revoke Wisconsin’s environmental protections, the state’s natural resources would be defenseless against any and all who desired to exploit them.

What You Can Do

If you live in Wisconsin, and oppose this deal, contact your state representative and senator and let them know your opinion.   Then try to persuade them to consider alternative approaches to achieve the desired sustainable economic growth within a planning framework that recognizes the need to protect wetlands, first by avoid building in them, secondly by minimizing impacts to them, and thirdly by attempting mitigating damages.





Posted in Wetland Gems, Wetland protection, Wisconsin State Natural Areas, Wisconsin Wetlands Association | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Walker’s Desperate Attempt to Create Wisconsin Jobs Threatens the State’s Natural Resources

Announced Foxconn Deal is Not a Plan for Sustained Economic Development in Wisconsin

Foxconn, the Taiwanese technology giant, maker of iPhones and components for other consumer electronics products, has pledged to build a 20-million-square-foot, 1,000 acre campus in southeastern Wisconsin to produce liquid-crystal displays (LCD’s). The project, if built, might bring from 3,000 to 13,000 jobs.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has pledged $3 billion in incentives (including income tax credits and $150 million in sales tax exemptions for materials used to build the facility) to bring the company to the state. But there will be a huge “cost” to the state both in terms of drain on the state budget, burden on state taxpayers, and potential damage to the state’s air, land, and water.

Governor Walker has, according to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal (July 30, 2017), negotiated a benefit package for Foxconn that totals between $15,000 and $19,000 per job, per year. The Wisconsin State Journal quotes Timothy Bartik of the Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan as saying “the amount they’re paying per job is very, very high.” Bartik’s research shows that the “average state tax subsidy per job, per year, for large projects is about $2,500.

Beyond that, Governor Walker has pledged to let Foxconn bypass state environmental regulations, including the requirement to complete an Environmental Impact Statement. State lawmakers will begin considering a bill this week (week of August 1, 2017) that would: “allow the company to move or change the course of streams, build manmade bodies of water that connect with natural waterways and discharge materials in state wetlands without authorization from the state Department of Natural Resources. It exempts the company from being subject to an environmental impact statement.” (Wisconsin State Journal July 29, 2017)

The state legislature may decide either to go along with this package, or to add or subtract incentives, but the potential environmental damage of the proposed environmental rollback and give away is enormous.

Governor Walker’s idea seems to be to give away the store. He is proposing to give Foxconn total free rein to have its way with Wisconsin’s air, land, and water before legislators and the public have even had a chance to learn what Foxconn’s plans are, let alone have time to review and comment on them. The environmental, social/cultural, and economic costs of fouled air and water, lost open space and habitat, and hydrological alterations has not even been estimated yet.

There is little specific information about Foxconn’s plans so it is hard to evaluate the proposal. But, we know the site is intended for Racine or Kenosha Counties. Besides that we don’t know the specific parcels Foxconn is interested in, if the project land contains waterways, or sensitive environmental features, or how the project might impact them.   These unknowns are what an environmental impact assessment and the resulting environmental impact statement are designed to discover and why it is such a bad idea to exempt the Foxconn project from going through the environmental impact discovery and assessment process.

The kinds of environmental alterations that Foxconn could make under Walker’s proposal (reversing the direction of streams, creating new water bodies, discharging into wetlands, and perhaps filling wetlands) are environmental assaults. As a practicing restoration ecologist, I know that the damage done cannot be mitigated against elsewhere or reversed through ecological restoration on-site.

The proposal would also set a dangerous precedent. What if Foxconn wants a second or third manufacturing site in Wisconsin? Would they get the same tax breaks and license to wreck the environment? What about other manufacturers? Would they get the same deal?

Walker’s Foxconn giveaway is just a deal; it is not an economic development plan. Nor is it a strategy to enhance Wisconsin’s heritage as an environmental leader and social and cultural haven. What Wisconsin needs is not a race to the bottom but a plan for sustained economic development that uplifts all Wisconsinites while honoring our history of respecting the environment, and protecting the state’s natural resources.

To give the Governor and Foxconn the benefit of the doubt, maybe they are considering utilizing one of the many empty former industrial sites in Wisconsin.   Perhaps they plan to use the abandoned former GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin or the recently-shuttered Oscar Meyer plant in Madison?

Urban infill like this would be good if it happens.  But the Foxconn deal, as it now stands, does not respect or enhance Wisconsin’s status as a great place to live. Yes, the state could benefit from many more well-paying and meaningful jobs; especially since Governor Walker has failed to come through on his promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. Now nearing the end of his second term (and thinking about running for a third) he is many tens of thousands of jobs short of that goal.

We in Wisconsin has so many good things going for us that we do not have to bow down to the commercial powers and give away all that we hold dear.

We can do better.


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“Flight of the Monarchs” Screening to Raise Funds for Friends of Lake Wingra


Female monarch on showy blazing-star (Liatris ligulistylis). Photo by Steve Glass

From our friends at Friends of Lake Wingra (FoLW) comes this reminder that there are things each of us can do to help the monarch butterfly.  Aiding the monarch is a true act of ecological restoration

“Hello monarch lovers,

“It’s time for another showing of that wonderful movie, “Flight of the Butterflies” in 3D IMAX. It’s coming soon–Sunday, 10:45 am, August 13. We’ve sold out every time before, so don’t delay. It’s perfect for young children! Tickets are available only online at″

“After the movie, you can purchase live monarchs–eggs, caterpillars, or chrysalids. Equipment for raising monarchs will be available (cash or checks accepted). We might even have live butterflies emerging or butterflies your kids can feed.”

More monarch events this summer !

  • “Friday, August 4, 10 am-2 pm: Butterfly Action Day at Olbrich Gardens
  • Sunday, August 6, 9 am – 1 pm: Monroe Street Farmers Market
  • Late August: 3-hr Teachers Workshop: Raising monarchs in the classroom
    Weekends in August: Purchase live monarchs and equipment for raising them. See or Facebook for times.”

Monarch Volunteers Needed!

“We especially need volunteers to host neighborhood events where kids can see monarchs. We provide the monarchs at no charge and have lots of emerging butterflies around Aug 9-13, plus other dates. Perfect for a neighborhood association meeting or Scouting event. Contact David at

Support monarchs at schools this fall

Last year, Monarchs for Kids supplied 10 monarchs to each of 118 classrooms in 30 elementary schools. It’s a big operation–we need help!
Volunteers needed to assist teachers by bringing milkweed to school, to feed their caterpillars.
Sponsor monarchs at your neighborhood elementary school. The typical cost per school is $50-$100 for eggs and equipment. Without your generous support, many teachers will pay from their own pockets. Suggested contribution for a school of your choice is $50. Sponsors are recognized on our website. If total contributions per school exceed school expenses, the funds will be applied toward the salary of our monarch coordinator.

Posted in Ecological restoration, Friends of Lake Wingra, Milkweed, Monarch butterfly, Monarch migration, Restoration ecology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Monroe Street Reconstruction: Preliminary Corridor Design Workshop Tomorrow Night

The promised resurfacing and reconstruction of Monroe Street has been rumored for several years.  Now it seems that the project may begin in 2018 because in January of 2017 the Madison City Council approved the project and a preliminary design.

Now, it’s time to get down to design details.  This design exercise will take place tomorrow evening, July 5, 2017 from 6-8pm at Edgewood College in the Washburn Heritage Room.


Workshop Goals:

Share detailed preliminary plans for the future design of Monroe Street.
Gather community input on potential placemaking and traffic calming enhancements along
Explore ideas and questions in a creative, hands-on setting.

For tickets and more info, click here:


Posted in Monroe Street construction projects, Monroe Street reconstruction 2015-2016 | Leave a comment

A Sunday Afternoon Outing With The Prairie Enthusiasts


Prairie Enthusiasts botanizing, and socializing atop the Hauser Road Prairie, a prairie remnant in northern Dane County, WI.

June 7, 2017 Madison, WI–Last Sunday afternoon was a picture perfect day in southern Wisconsin–clear skies, warm breezes, and low humidity.   It was also a wonderful day to spend with fellow prairie enthusiasts, literally on top of the world, in Hauser Road Prairie one of the few remnants of original prairie sod in Dane County.

Hauser Road Prairie is an island in the surrounding agricultural landscape and sits on a high ridge of exposed bedrock with a 360 degree view that includes the Wisconsin’s State Capitol building–over 12 miles away.  (I didn’t have a long camera lens to capture that image so you will have to come out  yourself some day this summer to verify.)

An outing with The Prairie Enthusiasts is really an educational excursion during which time one can learn about the geological and cultural history of a site, learn about management issues, as well as how to identify native prairie plants and the grassland birds that make the prairie home.


Rich Henderson (center, in wide brimmed hat) points out and identifies an interesting prairie plant.  Notice the plowed farm fields in the middle background.

Hauser Road Prairie is owned and managed by The Prairie Enthusiasts, Empire-Sauk Chapter.  The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) is a private grass roots organization operating primarily through volunteers.   Its sole mission is the protection and management of the last remaining pieces of the once vast and now endangered native prairie and savanna of the Upper Midwest.

Hauser Road Prairie is typical of a TPE project–it involves both preservation and restoration; the majority of the work performed by volunteers.   To permanently preserve the prairie, TPE bought the property from willing sellers, who had themselves, preserved the prairie throughout their ownership.  To restore the site, the TPE site manager pulls weeds, cuts and treats invading brush, burns the site and scatters locally-collected native prairie seeds.

Remnant of the once vast Empire Prairie

Hauser Road Prairie is 45 acres and is the largest single piece of the once extensive (over 100 square miles) Empire Prairie of south central Wisconsin.  This fine prairie remnant contains over 100 native prairie plant species with spectacular displays of shooting star, pasque flower, prairie smoke and goldenrods.



The prairie was probably never plowed because of the exposed bedrock and scattered glacial boulders.  The site was disturbed by grazing and parts still have some agricultural weeds (note the red clover in the lower right corner).  Can anyone identify the lichen on the boulder?  Notice the prairie smoke plant on the top left of the boulder.

A Sweet Spot

This was my first trip to Hauser Road–a place that a fellow prairie enthusiast that day called “a sweet spot” in the landscape–but  it won’t be the last.  In an original prairie sod remnant such as Hauser Road, each day is different.  As the season progresses, early bloomers fade to be replaced by the flowers of later season bloomers and then the fall color of the native grasses.

Posted in Prairie plants, Prairie restoration, Restoration ecology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Madison Groundwater Pumping Alert

Why is City of Madison Pumping Groundwater Down the Stormdrain?

A resident of Madison’s Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood alerted me this evening (5.25.17) that the street reconstruction project on Sprague St. had likely hit a groundwater vein and that crews had set up a pumping system to send the water down the storm drain at the corner of Monroe St.  See photo below.  The resident said the pumping was going on 24/7.

Groundwater being pumped into storm drain at Sprague and Monroe Streets.

We will be following this event over the next few days and weeks but right now we know that by a conservative estimate about 100 gallons per minute (gpm) are flowing down the storm drain and mixing with polluted storm water, and then on to Lake Wingra.

Think about that.  Twenty four hours at 100 gpm equals 144,000 gallons of groundwater down the drain.  In just one day.

Problem is, the water flowing to Lake Wingra will not be clear, clean spring water but contaminated storm water.

The pumping system is shown in the above photo.  

If this were a broken water main supplying fresh water to homes and businesses, City water utility crews would likely be on the scene immediately to make repairs.

We don’t know what the City’s short or long term solution is.  Will the groundwater pumping continue over the long Memorial Day weekend, or not.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Restoration ecology | 2 Comments

May Is Time to Garden With Native Plants

Pasque Flower (Anemone patens) at The Swamp Lovers Foundation

Madison, WI–The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is encouraging people to get outside and put a few more native plants in their gardens to help increase wildlife habitat.

The DNR’s  Wisconsin Native Plants publication lists native plants that will do well in various parts of Wisconsin area and links to specific guides for plants to benefit pollinators, birds and more.

The department also provides a list of Wisconsin native plant nurseries.

Monarch butterfly on Showy Blazizingstar, a good garden plant.

Below is a list of some native plant sales around the state in May.  Experts will be on hand at the dates and locations listed below and can help you get started with plants and gardening advice.

May 9, Madison
Native Plant Sale, a fundraiser for DNR’s Endangered Resources Fund, GEF 2
May 13, MadisonUW-Madison Arboretum Native Plant Sale, UW-Arboretum
May 13-14, Franklin
Mother’s Day Native Plant Sale, Wehr Nature Center
May 20, Mayville
Wildflowers for Wildlife, Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
May 20, Port Washington
Native Plant Sale, Forest Beach Migratory Preserve
May 21, Madison
Dane County Master Gardeners 2017 Spring Plant Sale, Dane County/UWEX Office
June 3, Ashland
Bayfield Regional Conservancy Northern Native Plant Sale, Northland College

Posted in Restoration ecology | Leave a comment

White Trout-Lily

Madison, WI.  On Sunday I went down to the Arboretum’s Wingra Oak Savanna with some friends to show them around the restoration project and to look at the nearby Council Springs, and Dancing Sands Springs.  And, of course, to botanize.

One of the highlights on this gorgeous spring day were the carpets of white trout-lily (Erythonium albidum) under the spreading open-grown bur and white oaks that provide the framework for the savanna.  The bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was past and the Jacob’s ladder ( Polemonium reptans) was just that day starting to flower.


White trout-lily a native Wisconsin woodland and savanna wildflower.

There were so many large colonies of white trout-lily at the Wingra Oak Savanna it was hard to take them all in; seemingly everywhere you looked was another patch.  But only a few flowering stems of yellow trout-lily were visible.

White trout-lily and its cousin, yellow trout-lily (Erythonium americanum) are true spring ephemerals, meaning they go dormant by late spring or early summer after producing seed, just after the tree canopy  closes in.   Trout-lilies like moist woods, forests, and apparently savannas.  The white variety is more common in southern Wisconsin; the yellow form common in the northern part of the state.

All trout-lilies grow from small underground vertical structures called corms, which are an enlarged, fleshy, solid base of a stem.   Each corm sends up two leaves and, usually, a single flower stalk.  However, both white and yellow trout-lily are notorious for producing sterile, non-flowering corms which produce dense colonies of single leaves.  Truly though, I don’t know what evolutionary advantage there is to a plant being sterile.

The leaves of trout-lilies are shaped like a fish and are mottled or spotted, giving it the appearance of the markings of a brook trout.


Each flower has six petals, called “tepals”, the term used when the petals and sepals look nearly alike.

Some think the tepals are shaped like a long canine tooth, hence the alternate common name of dog-tooth violet, despite the fact that the plant is not a violet but rather, is in the lily family (Lillaceae).  Other common names include Fawn Lily and Adder’s-tongue (Fassett, 1976).

Trout-lilies are clonal species meaning that while a given patch consists of many individual stems, they are all produced by common underground stems or stolons that arise from the mother corm and have an identical genetic makeup.  New colonies can be produced by seed.

Research has shown that trout-lily clones can live a long time.   Whitford (1951) studied the structure and age of a typical mesic forest stand in Green County, Wisconsin.  He determined “that the average age of a trout-lily colony was 145 years, ranging from 40 to 313 years.” (Curtis, 1959.)  This upper age estimate  was just six years after the explorer Nicolet in 1636 visited what would become Wisconsin.



Curtis, J.T. 1959.  The Vegetation of Wisconsin.  University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI.

Fassett, N. C. 1976.  Spring Flora of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

Whitford, P.W. 1951.  Estimation of the age of forest stands in the prairie-forest border region. PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Posted in Bagpipes and Bonfires, Council Spring, Restoration ecology, Spring ephemerals, Spring wildflowers, Springs | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments