Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray

devil's bit

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Devil's bit has the northeastern extreme of its distribution in New England, being found only in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is unusual in that the carpellate and staminate plants have very different ecological and morphological characteristics, typically with staminate plants being more abundant.

Habitat

Forest edges, forests, meadows and fields, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade shape
  • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
  • the leaf blade is oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
  • the leaf blade is spatulate (spoon-shaped; narrow near the base, then suddenly widening to a rounded tip)
Leaf blade length
30–200 mm
Flower petal color
  • white
  • yellow
Flower petal length
2–4 mm
Petal fusion
the perianth parts are separate
Inflorescence type
the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
Ovary position
the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
Fruit type (specific)
the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
Fruit length
7–14 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Axillary bulblets
    there are no bulblets being produced in axils
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached by its base to the filament
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused (the number of carpels equals the number of locules)
    Flower bract length
    0 mm
    Flower bracts
    there are no bracts associated with the flower
    Flower orientation
    the flowers point upward or spread or curve outward
    Flower petal color
    • white
    • yellow
    Flower petal length
    2–4 mm
    Flower shape
    the flower has a narrow corolla tube that abruptly widens at the end
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Form of style
    the style is narrow at the tip and unbranched
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Hairs on flower stalk
    the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence hair glands
    the axis of the inflorescence has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence length
    15–350 mm
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
    Inflorescence width
    10–15 mm
    Length of flower stalk
    0–5 mm
    Length of peduncle
    300–1300 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of pistils
    3
    Number of sepals and/or petals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    3
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal base
    the petal narrows gradually or does not narrow at the base
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal length
    2–4 mm
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the plant
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Spathe
    the plant does not have a spathe
    Spathe form
    NA
    Spathe length
    0 mm
    Stamen length
    2–4 mm
    Stamen number
    6
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamen types
    the stamens within a cycle are distinctly of two types
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
    Stamens fused outwards
    the stamens are not fused to the petals or tepals
    Style length
    1.5–2 mm
    Style petal-like
    the style is not broad and flattened like a petal
    Tepals
    the petals and sepals are similar in size and color
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Fruit beak length
    3.2–4 mm
    Fruit compartments
    there are three locules in the fruit
    Fruit length
    7–14 mm
    Fruit stalk orientation
    the fruits point upward or spread or curve outward
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Fruit width
    5–6 mm
    Other markings on berry
    NA
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Underground organs
    the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade basal lobes
    the leaf blades do not have basal lobes
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf has a distinct leaf stalk (petiole)
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section
    Leaf blade faces
    both surfaces of the leaf blade are exposed
    Leaf blade form
    Fully-formed (i.e., expanded), +/- green leaf blades are found somewhere on the plant
    Leaf blade length
    30–200 mm
    Leaf blade orientation
    the upper surface of the leaf blade faces the stem of the plant
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
    • the leaf blade is oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    • the leaf blade is spatulate (spoon-shaped; narrow near the base, then suddenly widening to a rounded tip)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade tip
    the tip of the leaf blade is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    Leaf blade veins
    the lateral veins are parallel or slightly arched in the direction of the tip
    Leaf blade width
    15–60 mm
    Leaf stalk length
    At least 0 mm
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Leaflet number
    0
    Stipule twining
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on this plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • forests
    • meadows or fields
    • woodlands
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the leaves have no particular smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem growth form
    the flowering stem is held upright
    Flowering stem interior
    the flowering stem is hollow
    Flowering stem leaves
    there is at least one fully-formed leaf on the flowering stem
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly or completely hairless

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
absent
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
absent

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)
Massachusetts
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Stenanthium gramineum:
leaf blades narrow-linear, 20-70 cm long, and plants from bulbs 30-80 mm long (vs. C. luteum, with leaf blades spatulate to oblanceolate, 5-20 cm long, and plants from rhizomes).
Lythrum clethroides:
flowers with 5 sepals and 5 petals and leaves chiefly cauline, with pinnately branching veins (vs. C. luteum, with flowers with 6 tepals and leaves basally disposed, with parallel veins).

Synonyms

  • Veratrum luteum L.

Family

Melanthiaceae

Genus

Chamaelirium

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray NC

devil’s bit. Veratrum luteum L. • CT, MA. Dry-mesic to mesic soils of fields, forest openings, 
and deciduous and evergreen-deciduous woodlands and forests on trap rock, limestone, and other bedrock types. Chamaelirium luteum is a dioecious species in which the staminate plants and the carpellate plants differ in morphology and abundance (e.g., carpellate plants are larger, carpellate plants have ascending vs. spreading flowers, staminate plants usually have fewer leaves, staminate plants are more frequent in a given population).