How Can Some Bulbs “plant” Themselves?


Erythronium americanum and E. album, native Yellow and White Trout Lily, form minuscule bulbs from seed,then send a sort of “foot” downward, which develops a thick spot that eventually fattens into another bulb, which repeats the process. Discovered all of that by digging up plants one spring from deserted land, then, later, transplanting them from our Tennessee property to this one.

Alas, the learning process was a bit rough on the first several plants we tried to lift, since we broke the little trailing pieces as they wove in and out of subterranean roots.

Believe it or not, the mghty oaks bury themselves the same way, extending a piece downward from the cracked acorn on the surface, until the growing tiny plant actually tugs the acorn right down into the soil! When mature enough, the little growth sets about sending up a slender stem that bears the first pair of seedling leaves once it breaks the surface.

If oaks grow on your property, spend some time on your knees. Look for the acorns, and lift them gently. You can see the various stages of progress until finally the downward piece gets about half an inch into the soil.

Another example of a plant that can “plant” themselves or self-correct if planted too shallow by a human, is Rhodophiala bifida (Schoolhouse lilies), which also has ”contractile roots.”

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • Vale: Interesting, I never knew that some plants / trees could do this! I wonder if the same goes for Dahlias because some of mine came out of the ground during the rainy season and I never replanted them, but some have managed to regrow!
  • chris w.: Plants are amazing.

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