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Native Plants: Trillium

Posted: April 1, 2013

Gardeners know our native trillium flowers, but I wonder if they know just how many trillium grow in our area...
Painted Trillium, or Trillium undulatum

Painted Trillium, or Trillium undulatum

Taking a walk through Ricketts Glen in the spring time you can spot the painted trillium, or Trillium undulatum. The large white flower sports a red ring close to the center of the three petals.

Or you may notice the Stinking Benjamin, the common name for Trillium erectum. I prefer the common name wake robin, so named because this trillium usually begins to bloom around the same time we start to see the robins returning to our gardens. The three dark maroon petals sit on top of a small stem above the three green leaves, causing the flower to nod its head downward. I have come across the white flower form of this native growing along the Susquehanna River.

If you visit Frances Slocum State Park in the spring, look for Trillium grandiflorum. This trillium has a large pure white 3-petaled flower above (you guessed it) three green leaves. Don’t let a clump of this trillium fool you into thinking you have found something special because these flowers age gracefully by turning pink with age. This habit makes for a festive spring-looking bouquet along the ground.

Other native trillium that will grow in our area include Trillium foetidissimum, commonly called fetid trillium. The three olive green leaves are splashed with darker green and it has a dark maroon flower. Trillium recurvatum, the bloody nose toadshade, has blood red flower petals sitting directly on the three leaves. Each leaf has two different shades of green.

All of the mentioned trillium are native to the US. Some can be readily found in our woodlands, while others, once purchased from a nursery, can grow well in our shaded gardens.

Article contributed by M. Garr, Luzerne County Master Gardener