Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seen in the Garden Today: Trillium

Trillium in Japanese: enrei-so
by Lynnda

On Tuesday, I visited the Garden with a friend who is a botanist. At times, the sun was shining, but moments later, dark clouds changed the mood and temperature. The turtles couldn't decide whether to climb onto rocks and wait for the sun or to go for a swim. The sword ferns have begun to unfurl their new fronds. Although this spring has been slow in arriving, the Garden is beginning to show signs of renewal.

On the west side of the WPA bridge, there are a few
 clumps of trillium, such lovely early harbingers of spring. What I learned from my friend is that trilliums change color once they have been pollinated. It's a trick that the flowers do to help the insects know that they should go find another flower to pollinate. The more time that passes since the pollination, the darker in color the trillium becomes until the flower turns to burgundy. Most of the Garden trilliums are still a very snowy white.

As we were walking on the west side of the pond, we heard the "cheep, cheep" of an osprey, and looking up, we saw it being chased by a crow. It was a lovely day in the Garden, and there were so many more plants beginning to bloom. This is the time of year that a visit each week gives an opportunity to greet another friend returning from a long winter absence.


  1. great! - i took a pic of those fern fronds too, but got speechless on what to say about them. glad you found a way to bring them up - there are plenty of them in the Garden looking like this right now.

    about TRILLIUM from Native Plant Guide • Information and Services for King County, Washington:

    Trillium is one of the most beloved of all native plants. A small, white to pink, delicate plant, often found in deciduous forest or ravine with some moisture. It also likes a certain amount of low ground cover or deep forest duff around it. Foam flower is a good companion and it also looks good with most ferns. Arising about the same time as the robins return, it has been called the wake-robin.

  2. The trillium is Ontario's provincial flower. Is it true if picked, the trillium does not grow again?

  3. hello canadian anonymous! i'm really lousy plant-person to ask, perhaps somebody better chimes in, but this is what wiki says; the ant garbage part is oh, well, interesting :) :

    Picking a trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing food for the next year. A plant takes many years to recover. For this reason in Michigan[1] and Minnesota[2] it is illegal to pick and/or transplant trilliums from public lands without a permit from the State.

    While it is a popular belief that it is illegal to pick the common Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium) in Ontario, in reality they are only protected in provincial parks and land owned by conservation authorities.[3] However, the rare Trillium flexipes (drooping trillium) is protected by law in Ontario,[4] because of its very small Canadian population.

    Trillium is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants. At maturity, the base and core of the trillium ovary turns soft and spongy. Trillium seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants extract the seeds from the decaying ovary and take them to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and put the seeds in their garbage, where they germinate in a rich growing medium.

  4. I have had one trillium bloom in my yard for the last 5 years. I've never seen any ants around it after it has finished blooming. Maybe that's why no other trilliums have ever arrived...I wonder if I should invite the ants...

  5. Glorious photos of the enchanting, almost mystical, trillium, Lynnda.

    A requirement for growing trillium is patience...waiting for its rhizome to form a big clump. So maybe in another 5 years.....


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