A stemless plant consisting of a fleshy, horizontal, fingerlike tuber with reddish-orange juice that sends up a flower stalk wrapped by a single palmate, deeply scalloped, grayish-green basal leaf. The leaf unfurls when the solitary flower blooms. After the flower fades, the leaves continue growing (to 8 inches wide) until midsummer, when the plant goes dormant.
Blooms March through April.
Flowers open before or just as the leaves start to unfurl. As the flower opens, 2 sepals fall off and 8–16 white petals of uneven size and length descend to a horizontal position, forming a flower that grows to 1¼ inch across, with many yellow stamens. Because petals are of uneven length, one often finds square flowers. Each flower lasts only one or two days.