Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
Coast Range fawn lily (Erythronium elegans)

Erythronium elegans flower
Erythronium elegans plant
Erythronium elegans habitat
Flower (left), habit (center), and habitat (right) of Coast Range fawn lily. Photos by Melissa Carr (left and right) and Gerald Carr (center). If downloading images from this website, please credit the photographer.


Plant description
Coast Range fawn lily is a perennial arising from a corm 2-5.5 cm long by 0.8-1.5 cm wide, which produces new cormlets laterally. Leaves are uniformly deep green or faintly mottled with brown or white. Non-flowering plants bear a single leaf, 6-8 cm long by 4-5 cm wide, the broad ovate-lanceolate blade usually abruptly narrowed to a slender, nearly wingless petiole. Flowering plants bear two more or less prostrate leaves 7-20 cm long by 2-4 (-8) cm wide, the narrowly lanceolate blade, often with wavy margins, gradually narrowed to a short, winged petiole. Flowers are nodding, number 1-2 (-4), and are borne on a scape 10-30 cm tall. The perianth is strongly reflexed in bright sunlight to only sightly spreading in low light conditions. Tepals are lanceolate to narrowly elliptic, 2-4 (-5) cm long, inner tepals more or less white and auriculate at the base, outer tepals more or less white and tinged (often strongly) with pink, particularly abaxially and along the midline; both inner and outer tepals have a yellow band at the base, become more pinkish throughout with age, and are darker on abaxial surfaces. Stamens are 1.3-2.2 cm long, the filaments white, flattened, linear to lanceolate, and 0.5-2 mm wide, the anthers yellow. The style is white, 1-3 cm long, the stigma deeply divided with slender, usually recurved lobes 2-4 mm long. Capsules are obovoid to oblong, 2-5 cm long.

Distinguishing characteristics
The distributions of three other species of Erythronium overlap with that of Coast Range fawn lily: E. grandiflorum, E. oregonum, and E. revolutum. Erythronium grandiflorum is distinguished from Coast Range fawn lily by its yellow tepals (versus white to pinkish tepals with a yellow band at the base); E. oregonum and E. revolutum both usually occur at lower elevations than Coast Range fawn lily and have distinctly mottled leaves (versus solid or faintly mottled) and dilated stamen filaments 2-3 mm wide (versus 0.5-2 mm wide).

When to survey
Surveys for Coast Range fawn lily should be completed when the species is in flower, from the beginning of May to early June.

This species is found in a variety of Coast Range habitats, including meadows, rocky cliffs, brushland, open and closed coniferous forest, and the edges of sphagnum bogs at elevations above 790 m (2600 ft).
Associated plant species include Abies amabilis, A. procera, Acer circinatum, Amelanchier alnifolia, Arabis sp., Camassia quamash, Carex spp., Cladothamnus sp., Fragaria virginiana, Fritillaria camschatcensis, Gaultheria shallon, Lupinus sp., Maianthemum dilatatum, Menziesia sp., Montia sp., Penstemon sp., Picea sp., Pinus monticola, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Pteridium aquilinum, Ribes sp., Rosa sp., Rubus ursinus, Senecio sylvaticus, Thuja plicata, Tsuga heterophylla, Vaccinium spp., Viola adunca, Xerophyllum tenax, and a variety of mosses and grasses.

Coast Range fawn lily is restricted to the Coast Range of northern Oregon. It is known from six primary sites, each occurring on prominent peaks and ridges separated by up to 48 km (30 miles), resulting in a fragmented distribution among high-elevation islands of habitat separated by lower elevation coniferous forests.

Oregon counties
Lincoln, Polk, Tillamook, Yamhill

Federal status
Species of Concern

A major threat to the Coast Range fawn lily is vegetative competition from encroaching shrubs and trees due to changes in natural disturbance regimes, including fire suppression. Studies indicate that a larger portion of Coast Range fawn lily plants found under heavy canopy cover appear to be non-reproductive compared to plants in more open areas. Other significant threats to this rare lily include herbivory by elk and deer, exotic plant invasions, and timber harvest and management activities.

Conservation planning
An interagency Conservation Assessment for Coast Range fawn lily was completed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2009.

Did you know?
Coast Range fawn lily was first described relatively recently by botanists Paul Hammond and Kenton Chambers in 1985, based on plants discovered on Mt. Hebo in 1982. Morphological and molecular data indicate the species is of hybrid origin, likely the result of crosses between Erythronium montanum, a montane to subalpine species, and either of two lowland species, E. oregonum or E. revolutum. It is also possible that the lowland ancestor of Coast Range fawn lily was a hybrid between E. oregonum and E. revolutum.

Allen, G. A. 2009. Morphological and molecular characters of the endemic fawn-lily Erythronium elegans and its relationship to other Pacific Northwest fawn-lilies. Unpublished report for the Bureau of Land Management, Salem District. University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia. Available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/sfpnw/issssp/documents/inventories/inv-rpt-va-erel-morph-molecular-characters-2009-10.pdf (pdf docuent, 483 kB). Accessed April 2, 2011.
Allen, G. A. and K. R. Robertson. 2002. Erythronium. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 26, pp. 153-164. Available at http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=112169. Accessed April 4, 2011.
Cushman, K., R. Exeter, and M. Stein. 2009. Conservation assessment for elegant fawn lily (Erythronium elegans). Unpublished report by the U.S. Forest Service, Region 6, and the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon and Washington. Available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/sfpnw/issssp/species-index/flora-vascular-plants.shtml. Accessed April 3, 2011.
Hammond, P. C. and K. L. Chambers. 1985. A new species of Erythronium (Liliaceae) from the Coast Range of Oregon. Madroño 32: 49-56.
OFP (Oregon Flora Project). 2010. Oregon Plant Atlas. http://www.oregonflora.org/atlas.php. Accessed, April 2, 2011.
ORBIC (Oregon Biodiversity Information Center). 2010a. Rare, threatened and endangered species of Oregon. Institute for Natural Resources, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.
105 pp. Available at http://orbic.pdx.edu/documents/2010-rte-book.pdf (pdf document, 971 kB). Accessed December 13, 2010.
ORBIC (Oregon Biodiversity Information Center). 2010b. ORBIC element occurrence database. Portland, Oregon.