Birch boughs enough piled everywhere!–
All fresh and sound from the recent axe.
Time someone came with cart and pair
And got them off the wild flower’s backs.
They might be good for garden things
To curl a little finger round,
The same as you seize cat’s-cradle strings,
And lift themselves up off the ground.
Small good to anything growing wild,
They were crooking many a trillium
That had budded before the boughs were piled
And since it was coming up had to come.
excerpt from~ Robert Frost’s poem: Pea Brush
I love the poet, Robert Frost, as much as I love the wildflower trillium. I posted about trilliums at Beautiful Wildlife Garden last week. But there are so many different trilliums that are native to New York, I wanted to continue the post with a very unusual variety, Red Trillium or Trillium sessile. As you may know trilliums are part of the Lily family, and I affectionately call them the “lilies of the woods“.
Trilliums all have the same basic structure. They grow from a rhizome and put out 3 whorled leaves. The typical trillium, that I see growing throughout the woods in spring, are trillium grandiflorum. This variety supports a large white flower on a short stalk above the leaves. The yellow native trillium erectum is similar except the stem supporting the pale yellow flower is much longer, and the flowers tower over the leaves.
I chose to highlight for Dozen for Diana at Elephant’s Eye meme (my Simply the Best series) the more unusual red trillium sessile another native. One can immediately see from the image at the top of the post, that the leaves are different from the other 2 native trilliums pictured here. They are mottled and contrast nicely with the dark red unusual flower. Can you see a pattern in my first three wildflowers I have highlighted. Each has mottled unusual leaves. Isn’t nature beautiful?
The flower from trillium sessile grows directly above the leaves with no stalk. Many times the flower will remain closed, but once it unfurls, it immediately catches your eye. As the flower ages the petals of the flower elongate as they are in the picture above.
They say that this trillium will also catch notice of your sense of smell as it has foul odor described as rotting food. The smell attracts pollinators such as flies (Carrion flies) and beetles. I only have a couple growing so far, and have not noticed a bad smell emanating from this trillium. But I will be on the lookout for the pollinators and the smell this spring.
T. sessile grows in rich moist woods in part to full shade. The flowers can bloom from April to June, and will last longer if they do not dry out. The foliage will die back by mid-summer. Trilliums are like many spring bulbs where it is best to let the foliage die back naturally so they can gather their reserves for flowering the next year. Rhizomatous plant that is difficult to propagate from seed.
Trilliums are a woodland with most species coming from North America, and a few species found in Asia. The sessile group is only found in North America while the group that flower from stems can be found in North America and Asia.
Trilliums are best planted and left to establish themselves over the years. Once they have flowered they set seed and dying back. The seed are dispersed by ants through a process called myrmecochory. Trilliums can be found with another favorite of mine Hepatica and are a great addition to the garden. Whatever you do, do not dig these up in the wild. T. sessile is listed as state threatened in Michigan and state endangered in New York, and it is illegal dig them up. Find a reputable nursery or supplier.
T. sessile is also known as Toadshade, Red trillium and Wake-robin. This species gets its name from the Latin word sessilis which means low sitting referring to the flower that rises from the leaves stemless. T. sessile is often mistaken for other trilliums:
The flower somewhat resembles Purple Trillium (T. erectum) but is distinguished by its lack of stalk and closed appearance. Several other stalkless species that appear closed are Little Sweet Betsy (T. cuneatum), an ill-scented southeastern species with large flowers up to 3 (7.5 cm) long and weakly mottled leaves; Yellow Trillium (T. luteum), in southern and midwestern areas, with yellow, lemon-scented flowers and mottled leaves; Green Wake-Robin (T. viride), also in southern and midwestern areas, with narrow, greenish, clawed petals up to 2 (5 cm) long; and Prairie Trillium (T. recurvatum), a midwestern plant with erect, clawed, maroon petals, drooping sepals, and mottled leaves. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The leaves of trilliums can eaten raw in a salad and taste like sunflower seeds. Or they can be cooked and eaten as greens although taking the leaves from the plant will reduce its ability to grow in subsequent years. This plant can also induce vomiting if eaten so be careful. The berries it produces are considered a poison.
This plant has been used medicinally to treat tumors, or in a poultice made from the leaves and crushed roots as a treatment for boils.
Mountain folklore has that if you pick this trillium it will rain. This plant was used by Native Americans as an eye medicine and to ease the pain of childbirth. It is said that Native American women used the boiled root as a love potion. A portion was dropped into the food of the desired man and you waited for the results. There is a great story in Laura Martin’s book, Wildflower Folklore, about a young girl who tries to use this potion on a Chief’s son. She boils the root and tries to put it in the young man’s food, but instead she trips and falls and the potion ends up in the food of an ugly old man. When he eats the food he follows the girl around begging her to marry him. I love stories like this.
Language of Flowers
Trilliums are said to mean modest beauty. Since they are part of the lily family they can also mean purity elegance and sweetness.
Lilies of the Woods
Through the shadows
of early woods,
Carpets of white
arise in pools of light.
Spreading out far and wide
in glorious song of spring’s arrival.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday. So drop by to check out all the blooms this Friday. I will also be joining Katarina for her Blooming Friday meme where the theme is My Jewel. I consider trilliums to be the jewels of the wildflowers in my garden.
I hope you will join me for my weekly posts, every Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.
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