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SPECIES:  Erythronium grandiflorum
Photo by Dr. Robert T. and Margaret Orr © California Academy of Sciences.


SPECIES: Erythronium grandiflorum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Williams, T. Y. 1990. Erythronium grandiflorum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions : On 29 September 2015, the Taxonomy section was amended to recognize only 2 subspecies of glacier-lily. References were added [18,33,34] to support that change.
ABBREVIATION : ERYGRA SYNONYMS : Erythronium grandiflorum var. candidum (Piper) Abrams [16] Erythronium grandiflorum subsp. chrysandrum Applegate [14] Erythronium grandiflorum var. grandiflorum Erythronium grandiflorum var. nudipetalum (Applegate) C. L. Hitchc [16] SCS PLANT CODE : ERGR2 COMMON NAMES : glacier-lily dogtooth violet lambstongue fawnlily yellow avalanche-lily TAXONOMY : The current scientific name of glacier-lily is Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh. (Liliaceae). Two subspecies are recognized [18,33,34]: Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh subsp. candidum Piper Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh subsp. grandiflorum The subspecies occur sympatrically only rarely. Crosses of the two subspecies are infertile [12]. LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : Information on state- and province-level protection status of plants in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.


SPECIES: Erythronium grandiflorum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Glacier-lily is distributed from southern British Columbia and Alberta south to California and Colorado, excluding Nevada [29].  Erythronium grandiflorum distribution by infrataxa is as follows [14,33]: Erythronium grandiflorum subsp. candidum - northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh subsp. grandiflorum - southern British Columbia and Saskatchewan south to California, Idaho, and New Mexico ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES26  Lodgepole pine    FRES28  Western hardwoods    FRES29  Sagebrush    FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub    FRES36  Mountain grasslands    FRES37  Mountain meadows STATES :      CA  CO  ID  MT  OR  UT  WA  WY  AB  BC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     1  Northern Pacific Border     2  Cascade Mountains     4  Sierra Mountains     5  Columbia Plateau     8  Northern Rocky Mountains     9  Middle Rocky Mountains    10  Wyoming Basin    11  Southern Rocky Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest    K008  Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest    K011  Western ponderosa forest    K015  Western spruce - fir forest    K037  Mountain mahogany - oak scrub    K050  Fescue - wheatgrass    K055  Sagebrush steppe SAF COVER TYPES :    206  Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir    213  Grand Fir    217  Aspen    218  Lodgepole pine    230  Douglas-fir - western hemlock    237  Interior ponderosa pine
Glacier-lily in Glacier National Park. Photo by Robert Potts © California Academy of Sciences.
Glacier-lily grows on moist slopes and in shaded areas from sagebrush
slopes to montane forests [14,16].  It has not been listed as a
community dominant or indicator, but it has been listed as a principal
species in a Festuca community in northern Washington and Idaho [28].


SPECIES: Erythronium grandiflorum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Glacier-lily is an important forage for grizzly bears, which dig for the corms in spring [31].  Ground squirrels will also feed on corms. Foliage is grazed by large ungulates such as sheep and cattle [10,15]. In an Idaho study, glacier-lily made up the bulk of mule deer diets during May [19]. PALATABILITY : In Idaho, mule deer ate disproportionate amounts of glacier-lily compared to its availability, suggesting there was some preference for the lily [19].  Bears will stray from their normal course of travel along ridges to seek out glacier-lily corms [31]. Glacier-lily provides fair to poor forage for cattle, sheep, and horses, and fair graze for small mammals, deer, and elk [7]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Glacier-lily was only an occasional food source for Native Americans. The deep-seated corms are difficult to dig.  The corms and flower buds may be eaten raw or boiled.  The leaves may be used as salad greens or as a potherb [15].  Native Americans crushed the root and used it as a poultice for boils [32].  However, the plant is probably more important for its aesthetic value, due to its large, showy flowers.  It may grow in gardens, but it is difficult to maintain and does much better in the wild [5,15]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Glacier-lily was present in small amounts on ungrazed, and moderately and heavily grazed sites in Utah [10].  Frequency increased on an 18-year grazing exclosure [9].  The species showed no great fluctuations in percent cover after various disturbances, such as clearcutting [31]. After severe overgrazing in Utah, glacier-lily was a component of an ephemeral community that withered early in the summer, leaving the area subject to flooding and erosion later in the summer [10]. A rare, white-flowered of glacier-lily should be protected.  Some of its former habitat in Glacier National Park has been destroyed by road maintenance work [21].  A recent study showed that white glacier-lily is not limited by failure to attract pollinators, low fertility, or differential survivorship of seedlings.  It did at least as well as the typical, yellow-flowered form in each of those categories [12].


SPECIES: Erythronium grandiflorum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Glacier-lily has an elongate, deep-seated corm.  It has two basal leaves which will grow 4 to 10 inches (10-25 cm) long.  One to five flowering stems will arise from these and grow 6 to 15 inches (15-40 cm) tall.  The nodding, yellow flowers are large, with petals between 1 and 2 inches (3-4 cm) long [6,14,26].  These flowers are radial, perfect, and choripetalous [25]. There are six large anthers which may be colored white, yellow, pink, red, or deep reddish-purple [16].  The fruit is a three-angled capsule between 1 and 2 inches (3-4 cm) long [26]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Flowers of glacier-lily are mainly pollinated by bumblebees, although other bees are also important.  They are occasionally pollinated by hummingbirds [6].  Glacier-lily has been found to be self-compatible in Colorado, although fewer seeds were produced after selfing than after outcrosses [6].  In Montana, both Erythronium grandiflorum subsp. candidum and subsp. grandiflorum were found to be obligate outcrossers [12].  Once the fruit matures and dehisces, seeds fall to the ground gradually as the fruit is disturbed by wind or possibly animals [12].  The seeds require 100 days of cold stratification before germination [12].  The plant may also sprout from the corm [30].  Some individuals of Erythronium spp. have been known to take up to 8 years to reach reproductive maturity [12]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Glacier-lily grows on moist slopes and in shaded areas [14].  It grows in mountain brush, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), aspen (Populus tremuloides), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), spruce-fir, or wet meadow zones [1,2,8,25,29,30,31].  It grows on fertile soils with high moisture-holding capacity [1].  This species may often be found near streams, lakes, seeps, bogs, snowchutes, or late-lying snowbanks.  The last is an especially common site for glacier-lily [10,25,26,31].  It is more common on cooler, moister north slopes than south slopes [28]. Some elevational ranges for glacier-lily are as follows [7,8,14,25,29].       6,500 to 11,000 feet (2,100-3,700 m) in CO       3,300 feet (1,100 m) in ID       3,400 to 7,000 feet (1,100-2,300 m) in MT       5,000 to 9,000 feet (1,675-3,115 m) in UT       9,500 feet (2,900 m) in WY The white glacier-lily grows at elevations up to 6,462 feet (2,154 m) but is usually found below 4,245 feet (1,415 m) [12]. In Utah, glacier-lily is found in the mountain shrub zone with Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) and bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum).  In Montana, Idaho, and Washington, it is often found in lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forests with Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), white spruce (P. glauca), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), or grand fir (A. grandis) [1,2,8,9,17,19,30,31].  In these areas, glacier-lily is commonly found with species such as baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), white spirea (Spirea betulifolia), common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), Nuttall violet (Viola nuttallii), springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata), lupine (Lupinus spp.), and huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.)  [4,10,19,25,28,30,31]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Glacier-lily is present in early, mid-, or late seres.  It was present on an Idaho stand 5 years following a fire [8].  It has also been found in an 88-year-old Montana forest stand [17].  In Utah, glacier-lily was present in early as well as mid-successional communities [10].  Data from a study in Idaho showed it was more common in old-growth forests than in areas with recent wildfires [31]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Glacier-lily is a vernal species, emerging very soon after snowmelt [6,26].  Anthesis will occur anywhere between March and August depending on the elevation [16,24,26].  It is an ephemeral species, generally having only 10 weeks between first emergence and leaf fall [24].  The fruit matures and dehisces approximately 2 months after pollination [12].  The plant overwinters as a corm [6].


SPECIES: Erythronium grandiflorum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Glacier-lily has a deep-seated corm, generally 5 to 7 inches (13-18 cm) below the soil surface, that escapes damage by fire.  The plant sprouts from the corm the following season [28].  Glacier-lily is commonly found on moist sites that are less subject to burning [28]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Geophyte, growing points deep in soil


SPECIES: Erythronium grandiflorum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : The top portion of glacier-lily is killed by fire.  Usually, the top is withered by the time of the summer dry season [10]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Glacier-lily sprouts from the corm in first postfire growing season [28].  Most likely, a fire would destroy the year's seed, preventing new plant establishment during the first postfire year [31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Project Summary Vegetation response to restoration treatments in ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forests of western Montana provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species including glacier-lily. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Glacier-lily is fire resistant, but frequent fires would probably suppress the species by eliminating the seed crop.

References for species: Erythronium grandiflorum

1. Allman, Verl Phillips. 1953. A preliminary study of the vegetation in an exclosure in the chaparral of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah. Utah Academy Proceedings. 30: 63-78. [9096]
2. Basile, Joseph V.; Jensen, Chester E. 1971. Grazing potential on lodgepole pine clearcuts in Montana. Res. Pap. INT-98. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 11 p. [8280]
3. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
4. Butler, David R. 1979. Vegetational and geomorphic change on snow avalanche paths, Glacier National Park, Montana. The Great Basin Naturalist. 45: 313-317. [7522]
5. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; [and others]. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6. The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
6. Cruzan, Mitchell B. 1990. Pollen-pollen and pollen-style interactions during pollen tube growth in Erythronium grandiflorum (Liliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 77(1): 116-122. [11497]
7. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
8. Drew, Larry Albert. 1967. Comparative phenology of seral shrub communities in the cedar/hemlock zone. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 108 p. Thesis. [9654]
9. Eastmond, Robert J. 1968. Vegetational changes in a mountain brush community of Utah during eighteen years. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 64 p. Thesis. [9097]
10. Ellison, Lincoln. 1954. Subalpine vegetation of the Wasatch Plateau, Utah. Ecological Monographs. 24: 89-184. [861]
11. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
12. Fritz-Sheridan, Jane K. 1988. Reproductive biology of Erythronium grandiflorum varieties grandiflorum and candidum (Liliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 75(1): 1-14. [11488]
13. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
14. Harrington, H. D. 1964. Manual of the plants of Colorado. 2d ed. Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc. 666 p. [6851]
15. Hart, J. 1976. Montana--native plants and early peoples. Helena, MT: Montana Historical Society. 75 p. [9979]
16. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1964. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 2: Salicaceae to Saxifragaceae. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 597 p. [1166]
17. Hungerford, Roger D. 1986. Vegetation response to stand cultural operations on small stem lodgepole pine stands in Montana. In: Weed control for forest productivity in the interior West; 1985 February 5-7; Spokane, WA. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension: 63-71. [5896]
18. Kartesz, J. T.; The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. Taxonomic Data Center, [Online]. Chapel Hill, NC: The Biota of North America Program (Producer). Available online: [maps generated from Kartesz, J. T. 2010. Floristic synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]. [84789]
19. Keay, Jeffrey A. 1977. Relationship of habitat use patterns and forage preferences of white-tailed and mule deer to post-fire vegetation, Upper Selway River. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 76 p. Thesis. [1316]
20. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
21. Lesica, Peter. 1984. Rare vascular plants of Glacier National Park, Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana, Department of Botany. 27 p. [12049]
22. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]
23. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
24. Schmidt, Wyman C.; Lotan, James E. 1980. Establishment and initial development of lodgepole pine in response to residue management. In: Environmental consequences of timber harvesting in Rocky Mountain coniferous forests: Symposium proceedings; 1979 September 11-13; Missoula, MT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-90. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 271-286. [10307]
25. Spence, John R.; Shaw, Richard J. 1981. A checklist of the alpine vascular flora of the Teton Range, Wyoming, with notes on biology and habitat preferences. The Great Basin Naturalist. 41(2): 232-242. [9839]
26. Standley, Paul C. 1921. Flora of Glacier National Park, Montana. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium. Vol. 22, Part 5. Washington, DC: United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution: 235-438. [12318]
27. Thomson, James D.; Stratton, Donald A. 1985. Floral morphology and cross-pollination in Erythronium grandiflorum (Liliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 72(3): 433-437. [11495]
28. Turner, Nancy J. 1994. Burning mountain sides for better crops: aboriginal landscape burning in British Columbia. International Journal of Ecoforestry. 10(3): 116-122. [27879]
29. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
30. Woodard, Paul Michael. 1977. Effects of prescribed burning on two different-aged high-elevation plant communities in eastern Washington. Seattle, WA: University of Washington. 228 p. Dissertation. [5350]
31. Zager, Peter Edward. 1980. The influence of logging and wildfire on grizzly bear habitat in northwestern Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 131 p. Dissertation. [5032]
32. Diamond, Kenneth B.; Warren, Guylyn R.; Cardellina, John H., II. 1985. Native American food and medicinal plants. 3. A-methylene butyrolactone from Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 14: 99-101. [11489]
33. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2015. PLANTS Database, [Online]. Available: /. [34262]
34. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 2015. Flora of North America north of Mexico, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: [36990]

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