Dog’s Tooth Violets For The Woodland Garden


Dog’s tooth violets (Erythronium) are a genus of delightful, hardy and garden-worthy woodland plants that originate from Europe, Asia and North America. These bulbous perennials belong to the lily family, flowering in the spring above sturdy mound of decorative foliage. They have a somewhat orchid like look: delicate and ephemeral: especially young seedlings which sometimes spring up. Their flowers hang from drooping necks, downward pointing with reflexed petals. After flowering their foliage gradually withers away, leaving the ground bare while the bulbs remain dormant from mid-summer onwards. For this reason they are good grown between other herbacious plants whose late-season foliage can expand to take their space.

I have grown the following three species in my little woodland garden. Each one flowers at a different time from March to May.

◼◻◻ The English Dog’s tooth violet (E. dens-canis) is a delicate, transitory little thing which flowers for just a few days in early March; blink and you’ll miss it! Its underground corms are bright white and shaped like canine teeth: hence the name. Its foliage is quite striking with brown blotches, while the flowers are magenta-pink.

◻◼◻ I also grow two American species successfully: E. revolutum — the Mahogany Fawn Lily — has delicate lilac-pink flowers in late March. The leaves are wavy and marbled with silvery-green veins. It is far more sturdy and reliable than E. dens-canis, and makes a more distinct show. Some recent photos are showcased below

◻◻◼ The third species is the handsome and robust E. tuolumnense ‘Pagoda’ which produces a fine display of yellow flowers in late April and early May. Its foliage, like E. revolutum is marbled, but this time with a subtle copper-brown. Of the three it produces the greatest quantity and largest size flowers looking for all the world like dwarf lilies.

ERYTHRONIUM dens-canis


Erythronium tuolumnense ‘Pagoda’

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