Bobbie's special article submission for February 2020
THE WOODLAND TRILLIUM When I hear the word wildflower, the first image that comes to my mind is the woodland trillium. One look at the 3 white petals, 3 leaf-like bracts, and 3 sepals, and there it is: a tri-llium. It belongs to the lilium family. There are 49 species native to various areas of North American and eastern Asia; 39 are native to the temperate deciduous or mixed conifer forests of North America. Trillium are slow growing, but are long lived. Like many of our native species, however, they are endangered by development, resource loss, over population of deer, and over harvesting. Common names of various trillium are toad shade, the size of an umbrella that could shelter a toad; wake robin, it appears in the forest with the first returning robins; and birthroot, used in traditional medicine in child birth. Trillium plants may be started by seed, divisions, or potted plants. In nature, the fruit produces seeds that are carried away by ants or mice. Those that aren’t eaten are warmed and moistened close to the surface of the fertile forest floor for 90 days or more. A root begins to emerge from the seed; the sprout stays damp and cool as tree leaves fall and the temperature changes over 90 – 120 days; then the trillium leaves begin to develop by the next season, but a bloom may not appear for up to five years. For this reason, growing trillium from root division is the preferred method. To grow this native plant in your own garden, choose the species that is suited to your area. In the Pacific Northwest, Dwarf Wake Robin (T. pusillum), Toad Shade (T. stamineum), Sweet Beth (T. vaseyi), Giant Trillium (T. chloropetalum), and Western White (T. ovatum) are best choices. Try to simulate nature’s habitat with a little dappled sun, shade, moisture, slightly acidic soil, and a good mulch of leaf mold. Plant the mother and offshoots 2”-3” below the soil surface. Since trillium goes dormant in mid-summer, plant it with its forest companions such as ferns, ginger, columbine, Solomon seal or spring blooming bulbs. Here’s the great part, trillium have no real pests other than nibbling deer. It is important to know the source of the start. Because of the slow growth rate and the disappearing habitat for these beautiful and once flourishing spring ephemerals, we need to help conserve them. Digging them from the woods is not appropriate and is illegal in some states. Be certain that the person or nursery from which you obtain your trillium got them in an ethical way. Here is something I have just added to my Bucket List: visit G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area near Linden, Virginia to see 18 million individual trilliums blooming in a two square mile wooded area. Ah, paradise.
References: Ianotti, Marie. (2019, March 11). How to grow trillium plants in a woodlandgarden. Retrieved from Thespruce.com/trillium Leopold, Susan. (2016, August 25). How we protect trilliums. Retrieved from https//blog.mountainroseherbs.com/how-to- Tilley, Nikki. (2015, March 17). How to grow and care for trilliums www.gardenknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/trillium/