PROSARTES - Fairybells

Family: Liliaceae - Lily

" Rhizome slender, creeping to ± erect. Stem: erect, branched, scaly below, leafy above, hairs 0 or generally sharp-branched, generally not glandular, some or all falling in age. Leaf: alternate, sessile to ± clasping, (ob)ovate to elliptic, acute to acuminate, base ± oblique, cordate to acute, main veins >=3, converging. Inflorescence: umbel-like, terminal; flowers 1–7, pendent. Flower: perianth parts 6, in 2 whorls, petal-like, free, white to ± green, bases green, generally convex; stamens 6, free, anthers generally < filaments, generally oblong, generally glabrous; ovary superior, chambers (1)3, style slender, stigma entire or 3-lobed. Fruit: berry, orange to red. Seed: white to pale yellow."
"6 species: temperate North America. (Greek: to append, from pendulous ovules of type sp.) [Mesler et al. 2010 Madroño 52:129–135]" [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Prosartes hookeri - Hooker's fairybells [E-flora][TSFTK]
  2. Prosartes smithii - Smith's fairybells [E-flora][TSFTK]
  3. Prosartes trachycarpa - Rough-fruited fairybells [E-flora]


P. hookeri; "Moist to mesic forests in the lowland and montane zones; common in BC south of 55degreeN; E to AB and W MT, ID and NW OR."[IFBC-E-flora]
P. smithii; "Moist forests and streambanks in the lowland zone; rare on S Vancouver Island; S to CA." [IFBC-E-flora]
P.trachycarpa; "Moist to dry forests, forest edges, thickets and clearings in the steppe and montane zones; common in BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains and S of 56degreeN; E to MB and S to SD, NM, AZ and OR." [IFBC-E-flora]

(above photos) Prosartes hookeri

[IFBC-E-flora] [IFBC-E-flora] [IFBC-E-flora]
[E-flora] [E-flora] [E-flora]

Species Mentioned;


Most Native Americans did not eat fairybells, though several groups used them for medicine. They prepared an infusion of stems or leaves to treat wounds and sore eyes. The Makah used both fairy bell and fairy lantern as a love potion. The Klallam considered them poisonous. The Nitinaht of Vancouver Island believed the berries fit only for wolves.[Derig WBOTW]

Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Disporum hookeri (Torr.) Nichols., Drops of Gold · Drug-Costanoan Kidney Aid Fruit used for the kidneys. (21 :28) · Food-Thompson Fruit Fruit occasionally used for food, but not considered important. (187:121)[NAEth Moerman]
Disporum hooken var. oreganum (S. Wats.) Q. Jones, Oregon Drops of Gold · Drug-KIallam Poison Plant considered poisonous. Makah Love Medicine Plant used as a love medicine. (as D. oreganum 79:25) · Food-Nitinaht Forage Berries eaten by wolves. (186:86)[NAEth Moerman]
Disporum smithii (Hook.) Piper, Largeflower Fairybells · Drug-Makah Love Medicine Plant used as a love medicine. (79:25) · Food-Karok Forage Berries eaten by squirrels. (148:381) Disporum sp. · Drug-Thompson Analgesic Compound decoction of roots taken for internal pains. (164:459)[NAEth Moerman]


P. trachycarpum; "Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[175]. Use a lime-free compost and keep it moist[175]. Stored seed requires 6 weeks cold stratification and should be sown as early in the year as possible[175]. Germination usually takes place within 3 - 6 months or more at 15°c[175]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring[200]."[PFAF]


"Fairybells grow well in moist, woodland gardens and shady borders in USDA zones 6 to 9. The delicate, drooping flowers are not flamboyant, but the handsome leaves fill in around hosta, ferns, and spring' blooming bulbs. The plants spread slowly, forming colonies." [Derig WBOTW]

P. trachycarpum; Best grown in partial shade in a moist peaty or woodland soil[1, 175]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -20°c[187]. Plants spread well by means of creeping rhizomes when they are grown in a leafy soil[187]. This species is closely related to D. smithii[233].[PFAF]

Syn: Disporum [E-flora]


Page last modified on Saturday, July 7, 2018 3:21 AM