Trillium is a genus of about 40-50 species of perennial herbaceous flowering plants, native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. They used to be treated in the family Trilliaceae or Trillium family, a part of the Liliales or Lily order. The AGP II treats Trilliaceae as a synonym of the family Melanthiaceae. Common names include trillium, wakerobin, and birthroot. The above ground parts of Trilliums are scapes with three large, leafy bracts with the true leaves reduced to underground papery coverings around the rhizomes.
In the east of North America, the most common is Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium). This plant has a large, often white, three-petaled flower above three broad bracts that look like leaves. The name was given by Linnaeus. Trillium grandiflorum is often the first wildflower noticed by casual walkers; other spring wildflowers are much less apparent.
In western North America, a typical species is Trillium ovatum (Western Trillium) also with white flowers, that slowly turn into a shade of purple in the middle of spring.
Picking Trillium for their flower can seriously injure the plant. The three leaves (more correctly leafy bracts) below the flower are the plant's only ability to produce food stores and a picked trillium can take many years to recover. For this reason in many areas, e.g. British Columbia, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, and Washington, it is illegal to pick and/or transplant trilliums from public lands with out 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 no such law actually exists. However, the rare Trillium flexipes (drooping trillium) is protected by law in Ontario, because of its very small Canadian population.
Trillium is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants and mice. Trillium seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and put the seeds in their garbage, where they can be protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant garbage.
Some trilliums have a flower which is bent downward, below the leaves.
A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Canadian province of Ontario. It features prominently on the Franco-Ontarian flag.
Trillium grandiflorum, commonly known as white trillium, great white trillium, white wake-robin, or in French as trille blanc, is a perennial monocotyledonous plant in the lily family. It is native to eastern North America from southern Canada in the north, south in the United States through the Appalachian Mountains into northernmost Georgia and west to Minnesota. There are also several disjunctive populations, such as in Nova Scotia and Iowa. The plant is most common in rich deciduous and mixed upland forests. It is easily recognised by its attractive three-petaled white flowers, opening from the late spring to the early summer, that rise above a whorl of three, leaf-like bracts.
Trillium grandiflorum has been studied extensively by ecologists due to a number of unique features it possess. It is a representative example of a plant whose seeds are spread through myrmecochory, or ant-mediated dispersal, which is effective in increasing the plant's ability to outcross, but ineffective in bringing the plant very far. This has led ecologists to question how it and similar plants were able to survive glaciation events during the ice ages. The height of the species has also been shown to be an effective index of how intense foraging by deer is in a particular area.
Some forms of the species have pink instead of white petals, while others with extra petals, also called "double" forms, are naturally quite common in the species, and these are especially popular with Trillium gardeners. In fact, the species is the most popular of its genus in cultivation, which has led to conservation concerns due to the majority of commercially available plants being collected from the wild. A few regional governments in Canada and the United States have declared the plant vulnerable as a result. As the plant is attractive and well known, it serves as the provincial emblem of Ontario, the state wild flower of Ohio, and it is often used in heraldry in Canada.
Trillium ovatum, the Western Wake Robin or Western White Trillium, is a member of the Trilliaceae family. It occurs in parts of the western United States and western Canada, usually in rich forest. In the northern part of its range, which includes southern British Columbia, extreme southwestern Alberta, Washington, Oregon and east to Montana, Wyoming and northern Colorado, it often grows under Douglas-fir. Other trees which frequently shade this trillium include grand fir, western red cedar, and western hemlock; bigleaf maple, red alder and Sitka spruce join in near the coast. Near California shores, it is common under coast redwood. Associated understorey plants include swordfern, vanilla leaf, violets, redwood sorrel and salal. It should be mentioned that Trillium ovatum occasionally comes not in white but in a maroon color. This is not to be confused with the normally ending of the flowering period when the white blooms slowly turn pink and the brown.
Trillium decumbens, common names: Trailing Trillium or Trailing Wakerobin, is a perennial wildflower which blooms from mid-March to April. Unlike other trilliums, its stems grow along the ground rather than standing upright, so that the plant appears to rest on the ground. Its leaves are mottled green and bronze, overlaid with silver, dying back early in the season. The flowers are dark maroon or purple. After flowering, it bears a dark purple berry. It is native to southeastern Tennessee and northern Georgia and Alabama, growing in deciduous woodlands.
Trillium decipiens, also known as Deceiving Trillium, is a spring-flowering perennial plant. It occurs mostly near the Chattahoochee River in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Scattered populations are found elsewhere in these three states, all within the Atlantic Coastal Plain or Gulf Coastal Plain. Rich deciduous woods of bluffs, ravines, and alluvial land provide its most favored habitat. Its stemless flower has three purple, brown or green (rarely yellow) petals which stand upright at the junction of the three strikingly mottled leaves. It is one of the earliest trilliums, often starting to bloom in January or February.
Trillium chloropetalum - Giant Wake Robin or Sessile Trillium (Trillium chloropetalum) is a spring-flowering perennial plant native to the west and north-west coast of the United States.
The flowers are a deep red color. A typical monocot, it has leaves and flowers that are grouped in threes. It is clump-forming and prefers a shady habitat, since its natural habitat is the woodland floor. The leaves are edible, and considered a delicacy by slugs.
Trillium cernuum (Nodding Trillium) is a species of Trillium native to northeastern North America, from Newfoundland west to southern Saskatchewan, and south to northern Virginia and Iowa. It occurs on rich, moist soils in both broadleaf and coniferous woodland.
Trillium catesbaei, also known as bashful wakerobin or rosy wake-robin, is a spring flowering perennial plant found in the southeastern United States. Like most trilliums, it prefers moist, humus-rich soil in shade. Its northern limit includes the Great Smoky Mountains and other parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. Most of its populations are in the Piedmont from North Carolina to Alabama, under deciduous trees such as American beech, various oak and hickory species, and tulip poplar. Its southernmost natural occurrence is in Early County, Georgia.
Trillium foetidissimum, common names: Fetid Trillium or Mississippi River Wakerobin, is a perennial wildflower which blooms from early March to early April. The flower is sessile, of a maroon color fading to brown with narrow lanceolate petals. It emits a smell of rotting meat to attract insect pollinators, hence the name. Its leaves are strongly mottled. The flower turns to a purple-brown berry in autumn.
Trillium undulatum (Painted Trillium) is a wildflower of the genus trillium found from the Great Smoky Mountains to Ontario and east to Nova Scotia. It is also known as painted lady or trille ondulé. It demands strongly acidic, humus-rich soils and tends to be found in the shade of acid-loving trees such as eastern white pine, red maple, red spruce and balsam fir.
Trillium vaseyi, common name: Sweet Wakerobin, is a spring flowering perennial plant which is found only in the mountains of the southeastern United States. It has among the largest flowers in the trillium family.
Painted trillium - Trillium undulatum
Trillium cernuum - Nodding Trillium
Trillium ovatum - Western Wake Robin or Western White Trillium
Trillium vaseyi - Sweet Wakerobin
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