Trilliums are a beautiful ephemeral flower. They emerge in spring and flower in the sunlight which hits the forest floor before deciduous leaves begin to grow on the trees above. They die down soon after the leaves block the sunlight above them. The name Trillium derives from ‘tri’ meaning three and it describes their defining characteristics of three petals, three sepals and three leaves. The colour range is from pure white to yellow and maroon and some petals curl back on themselves. The foliage of some species can be described as ‘toadshade’ due to the marking on the leaves. A rhizome which is very long lived and it can take up to seven years for many of them to flower from seed. They are unique in the floral world for emitting a range of smells ranging from delicately sweet to foul smelling. This scent helps the plant attract flies and insects or beetles as their pollinators. Grow them in your own garden if like a challenge and can provide the environment they thrive in. The ideal location is in a shady, evenly moist part of your garden with loose soil. Once established clumps can be lifted and divided once the foliage begins to die back. They can also be propagated by seed but the seed must be sown straight away. Trilliums have a double dormancy which means they will germinate in their first year but only produce a root. It is not until the next year that a leaf shoot will emerge which is followed by the characteristic three leaves in the years that follow.
Visit Mt Cuba USA to view an impressive collection of Trilliums on display during spring.