Chocolate lily. (By Dewhurst, Donna - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Chocolate lily. (By Dewhurst, Donna - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Nature Nut

Rosamund Pojar

Chocolate lilies (Fritillaria camschatcensis) are starting to flower in moist grassy meadows in the valley. The flowers have six, deep chocolate-brown petals surrounding bright yellow stamens.

While they look beautiful, the flowers have a very unpleasant smell resembling rotten meat or dirty socks. The brown colour and foul odour are very attractive to flies which are the main pollinators.

More typically found on the west coast, the plants grow from tiny, rice-like bulblets, so it is also known as northern rice-root.

The bulblets were a very important source of starch for coastal Indigenous people. Families would tend their own patches of the plants to keep them free from debris and competing plants.

Lilies, as well as any orchids (fairyslippers, ladyslippers etc.) that are flowering in June, should not be picked. The flowers will wilt before reaching home.

Picking tends to pull on the roots and break them. This means the plants have difficulty in storing food for the following year’s crop of leaves and flowers.

Picking has caused major declines in lilies and orchids in parts of B.C.

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Chocolate lily. (Wikimedia Commons)

Chocolate lily. (Wikimedia Commons)