Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Trilliums Final Show

Vermont has three different trilliums, which are shared by other New England states. Maine has one addition to this trio that is partial to that state but will grow here, as many trillium will, if they are relocated.

Pictured above is T.undulatum, the painted trillium, which is the last to bloom here. After almost six inches of rain this past week and 3" of that Friday night, these usually bright accents to the forest floor looked waterlogged yesterday morning when I tried to take pictures. Our grandiflorums, the large, pure white trilliums are past peak and the T erectum wine reds have about faded away. Under the large white pine are some interesting T. erectum which have especially large leaves and very wide petals. I haven't figured out the differences but it could be something as simple as the age of the plant and size of the rhizome.

Trilliums are a great woodland garden plant as long as your gardens are prepared for their disappearing act come August. Within days they go dormant and the space they once occupied is obviously bare. This isn't noticeable with small plantings but here we encourage many trilliums planted together so when they are gone, the hole is obvious.

Well before the plants become dormant, the seed pods require daily attention as they mature. Ants are the "great seed dispersal insects" as far as trillium go and that means that you have to beat the insects to the seed pods if you want to expand your collection. Each tiny seed is ellipsoidal in shape and has a fleshy appendage which has an oily texture that ants like to eat. This part is called the elaiosome. You must monitor the seed pods because when the ants know they are prime, they'll clean them out over night. I pick the pods and make a hole in the ground with a finger and then smush the pod before forcing it into the hole in the ground and covering it.

Within my gardens I have some T flexipes seeds planted last year which deserve an inspection soon. I also have some T luteum which Gail bought for me a couple years back. They are in bloom now with their yellow petals. I keep forgetting to get down and smell the flowers to see if I can detect the lemon fragrance which I'm told is obvious. Actually I think the mottled leaves are the strong point of this one. Finally I have some new arrivals, some rhizomes of T pusillum. Pusillum means "small" or "dwarfed", hence the common names "Dwarf" or "Least" Trillium.
Last spring I took some pictures on Bainbridge Island in Washington of some trilliums which I liked. They are the only other trillium I have had the opportunity to see. Nonetheless I feel prividledged to be familiar with 7 of the 43 trilliums native to North American.

Have an interest in trillium? I think Trilliums by Frederick W. Case, Jr and Roberta B. Case is worth the $29.95 new, probably much less than that slightly soiled and used. I take trillium journeys with it trying to figure out where I'd like to go to see and photograph other trilliums. Trillium journeys are good journeys!

From the hill above Peach Pond where final daylight leaves balsam tops on the horizon, and the call of a barred owl across the pond in the maples.


George Africa

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