Northern Ontario Plant Database
Clintonia borealis (Aiton) Raf.
En: yellow clintonia, bluebead lily, poisonberry, cornlily
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
General: A perennial, scapose forb, to 50 cm tall, growing from a slender rhizome. Nectaries are present at the base of the tepals.
Leaves: Basal, 2–4 (usually 3), blades elliptic to narrowly obovate, to 30 cm long and 10 cm wide. Leaf blade are light green, glossy and somewhat stiff; sheathing at the base; apex short-acuminate; margins entire and finely hairy.
Flowers: In a loose umbel-like terminal cluster of 2-8 flowers, nodding to erect ; petals and sepals alike (tepals), 6, yellow to greenish-yellow, oblong to lanceolate, to 1.6 cm long; stamens 6, slightly longer than the petals; ovary superior, 2-locular, with several ovules per locule. Flowering from May to July.
Fruit: Each flowering stem may bear 1 to few berries on stiff, erect stalks. Berries are somewhat poisonous, about 1 cm in diameter, bright to deep blue, shiny or sometimes with a paler (glaucous) bloom, with firm white flesh and many seeds. Fruits ripen in August.
Habitat and Range: Rich coniferous and mixedwood stands, thickets. As the name suggests, Clintonia borealis in native to boreal regions of northeastern North America, where it is a very common understory plant.
Similar Species: The poisonous fruits of Clintonia borealis may be confused with the edible fruits of blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), especially by children, who see only a bright "blue berry." Clintonia berries are smooth, with a slight dimple where the style was attached to the ovary. Blueberries, which develop from an inferior ovary, bear a persistent crown of 5 short-triangular teeth (the calyx lobes). Anyone picking blueberries should learn to differentiate between these two berries, as several berries may be enough to poison a young child.
Internet Images: The Clintonia borealis page from Connecticut Botanical Society.
The Clintonia borealis page from borealforest.org.
– written by Derek Goertz & Sue Meades
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