And the next Top Ten wildflower (#9) is…???

Our previous wildflower was found in Fall or late summer on the edges of moist, shaded woods that bordered sunny barren fields. Let’s skip and hop to a different microenvironment and a different time window. Early Spring is the best season to find #9 and a moist leaf mulch environment is home to the Trillium. In the Southern Appalachians, the US Park Service has identified 18 different Trillium varieties and they all are fascinating. One in particular stands out and is my #9 in the list of top wildflowers – The Painted Trillium or Trillium undulatum. While every other Trillium is a solid color, the Painted is just that. A white canvas with pink and red brushstrokes on the throat of all three petals. Did I say “three”?

The beauty of this rare Trillium radiates from the center.

Everything about eachTrillium is a three. Three petals on top of three sepals (false petals) on top of three leaves – never two, never four, always three.The central anthers are dipped in the same blush as the petal throats and they number six (2 times three). I have never removed a Trillium from its native habitat but I wonder if the root system is in threes. I believe they have bulbs and perhaps they are in three sections – partitioned similar to garlic cloves.

A Painted Trillium Community.

My first Painted Trillium encounter was atop a large rock along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I stopped to climb it because it was there and when I reached the top I was greeted by a beautiful flower. A sole Painted Trillium politely asked me what I was doing invading its environment. I took a photo and slipped down the small hill avoiding a broken arm or leg in my wildflower excitement. Do other wildflowers commune with the Trillium? The answer is a resounding “YES”! Although the Painted Trillium is quite an introvert, its cousins are undoubtedly the opposite. The Large White Trillium lives in communities numbering in the thousands if not millions and they all bloom at one time creating a mass green and white carpet extending up the hill, over the top and down the next. Since it takes seven years for a Trillium to grow to blooming age, one can only imagine the future generations of White Trilliums just itching to blast their whiteness for our pleasure.

A Great White Trillium tapestry.

In addition to the white Trillium shown above with its three inch blooms, there are many other notable Trillium varieties. The Yellow Trillium, the Red Trillium, the Sessile Trillium, the Nodding Trillium, Catesby’s Trillium and a dozen others.

Yellow Trillium sometimes called a Lemon Trillium.
A not so shy Red Trillium or perhaps a Purple Trillium (?).
The Sessile Trilliam commonly called a Toadshade. Sessile is the technical name for “no stem”.
The Nodding Trillium or Whip-Poor-Will Flower.

Manyt other wildflowers bloom at the same time as the Trillium and among them are a few of my favorites. The Hepatica is pink or pale blue and very low-growing. Its leafs are distinctive and can’t be confused with any other wildflower.

Each Hepatica leaf is three lobed.

The Squirrel Corn and its very close relative – Dutchman’s Breeches – blooms in late March. and is always a great find.

Squirrel Corn is named for its yellow root nodules.

Wow! If you are not a wildflower enthusiast by now – what will it take to make you one? The Painted Trillium is #9 on my Top Ten list – what could possibly be a better showman than the Trillium? Only tomorrow will tell!

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