Dogtooth Violet: A flower with reverse petals
By Li Yujun

June is approaching, and dogtooth violets are about to say goodbye. They are unforgettable because of their drooping petals: when blooming, they fold upward, exposing the delicate, seemingly hand-painted pattern inside.

In Chinese, it is called "the pigtooth flower" which comes from its long, pointed white bulbs. It is also known as "trout lily" or "fawn lily", names that refer to spots and lines on the leaf surface.

Trees are luxuriant in summer, and the dogtooth violet living in the shade, due to lack of sunlight, fades and transfers nutrients to its bulbs, and waits for the next spring to bloom again.

The short blooming in spring is a common survival strategy for understory herbaceous plants in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. The nutrition in the bulb allows the dogtooth violet to sprout and blossom as soon as the snow and ice melt, and, thanks to the absence of leaves of trees, the light is sufficient.

Dogtooth violets seize the spring to accumulate nutrition and pollinate, but another problem comes: the spread of seeds. 

The dogtooth violet is short and close to the ground. It can't rely on either wind nor animals to spread its seeds.

But nature has the answer: its seeds have a transparent oleosome which will attract ants, who come and take them home. Ants only eat oleosomes and a small part of the seeds. In most cases, the seeds germinate in the abandoned ant nest.

There are two kinds of dogtooth violets in China: Erythronium sibiricum distributed in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Erythronium japonicum distributed in the Jilin and Liaoning provinces. These flowers will form a violet sea next spring.

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Season of flower

(All images via VCG)

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