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Plant Spotlight: Erythronium Pagoda

April 17th, 2012

Somewhere in my reading I came across the Erythronium or the dogtooth violet. I can’t remember for sure where, maybe in a wildflower book. If I had to guess it would be from one of the books written by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, most likely I read about it in A Year at North Hill : Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden. It doesn’t really matter where I found out about it, I’m just glad I did.

I ordered bulbs for erythronium ‘Pagoda’ last fall and they arrived nestled in one of the boxes of my 2500 bulb order. I double checked my invoice with the included items, everything had arrived and I didn’t think about these boxes in the garage for a few days. When unpacking and organzing the bulbs a week later, I noticed the pack of Erythronium said “PLANT NOW!” (yes in all caps with an exclamation point- oooops). I grabbed by trowel and planted most of them in the east facing side flowerbed and a few in the north facing bed by the back door.


Erythroniums are native to the Northern Hemisphere and prefer forest and meadows with slightly acidic soil. They can take part to full shade which is one of the reasons I purchased them. Being surrounded on three sides by very large trees, I have an abundance of shade here at Chiot’s Run. I’m often struggling to find something besides hostas that will thrive in the shady corners of the garden. Since there are forest natives I knew they’d love the conditions in those beds, they are essentially just like the forrest floor.


This little plant isn’t of the viola family even though it’s nickname suggest it, it’s of the lily family (Liliaceae). It’s nickname “Dog Tooth Violet” comes from the corms which are white and shaped like a dog’s tooth. It also has a host of other nicknames as well.  Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the corms when I planted them so I can’t show you what they look like. You’ll have to take my word that they did in fact look like giant canine teeth.

Erythronium is usually grown as an ornamental garden plant, but it’s also edible. The leaves and flowers may be consumed raw or boiled. The corm can also be ground and used as a starch.  From my research, it was often used for making thin noodles.  In Japan the ground corms are used to thicken sauces and make tempura. It’s been used medicinally as well, the leaves can be dried and used in teas, or they can be crushed and used as a poultice. It is high in alph-methylene-butyrolactone which prevents cell mutation and may help fight cancer.  Native American Indian women were said to use the raw leaves as a contraceptive, Roman soldiers used it for foot related issues and it was used throughout the ages as a diuretic, fever reducer, to treat gout, to aid in decongestion, and to help reduce ulcers and shrink tumors.

I won’t be eating mine any time soon, I want them to multiply and grow into lovely little patches. You can believe I’ll be trying to find a few other varieties, which are different sizes and colors, to add to the garden though and when I get a good patch going I’ll try eating them in a variety of ways.

Have you found any new and interesting plants recently?

12 Comments to “Plant Spotlight: Erythronium Pagoda”
  1. daisy on April 17, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Wow, those are some sweet looking plants! What a great contrast with the hostas that would make.

    I am still exploring the world of natives in our garden.
    daisy´s last post ..Bloomin’ Tuesday!

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  2. Joan on April 17, 2012 at 6:06 am

    They grow wild here, but we don’t see them often. Usually when we go fiddleheading we’ll see some… They are beautiful!

    Reply to Joan's comment

  3. Victoria on April 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Wonderful shot of yellow! Every year I get more adventurous with flowers & bulbs. We’ve got to keep things interesting for the pollinators!
    Victoria´s last post ..Fried Goat Cheese

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  4. pam on April 17, 2012 at 6:50 am

    So pretty and delicate.
    pam´s last post ..Garden Tuesday ~ The First Peony

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  5. anotherkindofdrew on April 17, 2012 at 8:37 am

    What I love most about this blog is that I am constantly learning. Whether it be new recipes, new tools, or new flowers (of which I know little about) I am always learning something!

    What a beautiful flower today. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply to anotherkindofdrew's comment

  6. Sincerely, Emily on April 17, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Those are beautiful little plants. I can just picture them in the woods and forest along with trillium and wintergreen and lady slippers when I walk in the woods up in Wisconsin. No shade that is cool enough in my yard to hostas. I miss that plant a lot. Always to full and green.
    Sincerely, Emily´s last post ..Feed Bags

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  7. tj on April 17, 2012 at 10:46 am

    …Yes, this one! I love these! So must get these for my yard. We have a shady area toward the back of our yard where it’s totally shaded by large hickory trees and I’ve been slowly dividing up my hostas and lilly of the valley and placing the extras back there. These would be perfect for that area. Besides I love the name and their history. :o)

    …Thanks for sharing!

    …Enjoy your day!

    …Blessings :o)

    Reply to tj's comment

  8. KimH on April 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Gen 2:29

    I love it when a beautiful plant or other thing gives such a multitude of uses and opportunities for appreciation.
    I’ve seen this plant but dont have any in my own little shade garden.. Perhaps I should change that. ;)

    And no.. I havent really run into anything new & interesting lately.
    I did buy a package of Jerusalem artichokes so its the first time I’ve actually eaten any in about 20 years I like them.. I plan to plant myself a little patch in the front yard… no one will ever know they’re for food. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

  9. judym on April 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    love the plant. They would be great in our shade garden. We have hosta, fern, columbine, scented geranium, trillium and lily of the valley. These will add some beautiful color to all the green. I’m hoping to get more trillium this year, so maybe I’ll order these as well. Thanks Suz!

    Reply to judym's comment

  10. Maybelline on April 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    What tiny plants. I haven’t discovered anything new but your post has inspired me to vigilantly look.
    Maybelline´s last post ..You Think Your Legs Are Hairy!

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

  11. patrice wassmann on April 21, 2012 at 8:11 am

    One of my favorite spring wildflowers! They grow in abundance in the northern VT woods. I might have to try some in the garden! Ours have spotted leaves. Great to know they are edible!

    Reply to patrice wassmann's comment

  12. Isabel @ Fennel and Fern on April 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

    One of my favourite spring plants: they look amazing when planted in huge drifts in a woodland setting.

    Reply to Isabel @ Fennel and Fern's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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