Rural Perspectives

Eastern white trillium can be found in area woodlands

by Diane Constable

Trilliums blossom from April to June in damp woods with
lots of leaf cover. Photo credit Diane Constable

With its large white petals, the Eastern white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) is a favorite woodland wildflower in our area.

Trilliums are members of the lily family. The plant grows from a type of underground stem covered with roots called a rhizome. It also stores nutrients for the plant.

The trillium produces three leaves and a flower with three petals, three sepals and three stigmas. Tri is short for three, hence the name.

The snowy white flower blooms from April to June in damp woodlands where there is a lot of leaf cover. It is pollinated by ants and, when mature, it turns a light pink. It wilts quickly if picked and has no fragrance. If flowers or leaves are picked or eaten by deer, the plant will die. Trilliums also do not transplant well.

Like many spring wildflowers, once the plant has gone to seed the plant goes dormant, although the rhizomes continue to grow using the stored energy collected by the leaves.

The small fruit containing the seeds are a favorite of ants, mice and deer, all of which help spread the seeds to other areas. Once sprouted, it can take seven years or more for the plant to blossom, and it will live 10-15 years. Although protected in Michigan, trillium plants are available at native plant nurseries and are best grown in a well-watered and shaded area.

Fun Fact: Ants often cut off the fruit and take it back to the nest to eat. The seeds are removed and deposited outside the nest.

Diane Constable is an avid photographer. She serves on the Unadilla Township Planning Commission and is a member of the township’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Diane also enjoys her dogs and gardening.

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