Yellow Avalanche Lily
(Yellow Glacier-Lily)
Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh

Two different collections were made of this distinctive spring-flowering plant: The first was obtained on 8 May 1806 somewhere along the Clearwater River between Big Canyon Creek in Nez Perce Co. and Little Canyon Creek in Clearwater Co., Idaho. The second was made on 15 Jun 1806 when the party was along the Lolo Trail in Idaho Co., Idaho. Here Lewis and Clark were north of Lolo Creek and camped that evening along Eldorado Creek near the mouth of Lunch Creek. (Source)

It is a perennial herb with 2 leaves 4-8 inches long from deeplly buried elongated, corm like bulbs. The flowers are bright yellow, nodding, 1 1/4-2 1/2 inches across, with 6 petals curved upwards and 6 large stamens projecting downwards, usually solitary on a leafless, 4 to 16 inch stalk. It blooms from April to August.  The fruits are erect, 3-sided clubs-shaped capsules, 1 /14-1 5/8 inches long. 

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It requires dry or moist soil.  It is found in sagebrush, open woodland and grassy mountain slopes, sometimes to the tree line. Rich moist soil along the banks of streams, shaded woods and sub-alpine meadows, often in large patches. It is found in the Northern Rocky Mountain area. 

Food Uses
Bulb is eaten raw or cooked. The bulbs are usually harvested in the spring as the first leaves appear above ground, they can be stored for some months in a cool place. The raw bulb has a slightly bitter milky taste, the texture is cool and moist inside and so the North American Indians liked eating them on hot days. The cooked bulb has a more starchy texture and a sweet flavour. Stored bulbs develop a sweeter flavor when cooked than fresh bulbs. The Indians always drank water after eating the bulbs because they believed that otherwise they would get sick. Large quantities can have an emetic effect. The bulbs can also be dried for later use. Leaves may be used raw or cooked. Eating the leaves will greatly reduce the vigor of the bulb, so can only be recommended in times of emergence. Young seedpods used raw or cooked. The cooked pods taste like French beans.

Medicinal Uses
The pulverized root is applied to boils and as a wet dressing on skin sores.
A leaf tea has been used to kill a wide range of bacteria and can be used as an antiseptic wash for cuts, scrapes and sores.

Value for Wildlife:
Yellow avalanche lily is an important forage for grizzly bears, which dig for the corms in spring. Ground squirrels will also feed on corms. In an Idaho study, Yellow avalanche lily made up the bulk of mule deer diets during May.  In Idaho, mule deer ate disproportionate amounts of  Yellow avalanche lily compared to its availability, suggesting there was some preference for the lily . Bears will stray from their normal course of travel along ridges to seek out glacier lily corms. Yellow avalanche lily provides fair graze for small mammals, deer, and elk.
(Source)

                Return to Alphabetical Listing