Habitat: Upper Montane and subalpine
Height: 10 to 40 cm
Description: The yellow avalanche lily is one of the true harbingers of spring in the high country. Long after the crocus has gone to seed, the snow begins to depart the mountain hillsides. Suddenly the slopes explode into a sea of yellow avalanche lilies.
This distinctive lily has two linear, lily-like clasping basal leaves. The leaves are 10-30 cm long. A single stem rises from the leaves to terminate in a single (occasionally two), nodding, yellow lily with 6 recurved petals. The yellow-tipped stamens dangle downwards from the recurved petals.
Flower: The nodding yellow flowers of this lily are instantly recognizable. They have six petals (tepals) that form a nodding yellow lily with the tips of the petals curving backward to reveal six long stamens. The individual petals are lanceolate in shape and 2-4 cm long. The flowers usually occur singly, at the top of a leafless stem.
Leaf: The leaves occur as a basal pair of two corn-like leaves. They clasp the stem, and are narrowly oval to egg shaped, with smooth margins and a sharp tip. Each leaf is yellow-green in colour and 10-20 cm long. There is a prominent central ridge on the leaf.
Fruit/Seed: The seeds are contained in a cylindrical, three chambered capsule 3-5 cm long.
Similar Species: None
Range: The yellow avalanche lily is generally known as a high elevation lily that occurs from southern British Columbia and Jasper south to Montana, Wyoming and Utah.
The bulbs (corms) are a favourite food of grizzly bears who will dig them up in the spring and fall when other foods are scarce and when the bulbs are at their most nutritious point.
Native Canadians also harvested the corms as a key food source. The Blackfoot would eat the corms fresh or with soup. By cooking them slowly, either by steaming, roasting or boiling, the flavour becomes much more pleasant. While they were an important staple food to Native Canadians, lilies do not respond well to harvesting and they should be left undisturbed.
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Yellow Avalanche Lily, Yellow Glacier Lily