White Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum Melanthiaceae

Growth habit

Herbaceous

Perennation

Perennial

Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, E. North America

Cultivation

A 10-12" tall plant with a stalked white flower that turns pink with age.
Light: shade to part sun
Moisture and Soil: medium moisture, rich soil

Propagation

Seed Treatment and Storage: Keep seeds moist. Needs warm+moist/cold+moist stratification. It may be 2-3 years until growth appears above ground (first year post germination is underground development); 5-8 years to flower.

Biocultural value

Although it has been recorded that young, unfolding trillium plants can be eaten, these scarce and precious wildflowers should not be gathered for food purposes except in cases of emergency. Trillium roots are highly emetic. The Chippewa applied a decoction of white trillium roots to aching joints and dropped it in sore ears, while the Menominee prescribed the root for issues among menstruating women.

The statements above were sourced from:

Fernald, Merritt Lyndon, and Alfred Charles Kinsey Kinsey. 1958. Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.BRIT Native American Ethnobotany Database.org/

Wildlife value

Trillium seeds are dispersed by ants, who take the fruit to their underground homes, eat the flesh (elaisome) and discard the seed. White-tailed deer readily browse the foliage and flowers of Trillium species and seem to favor white trillium in particular, perhaps because they can see the flowers.

Climate change sensitivity

Over the period from 1986 to 2015, Trillium grandiflorum bloomed an average of 3.5 days earlier.

Location

Mundy Wildflower Garden, Coy Glen, Fischer Old-growth Forest, Slaterville 600, McDaniel Meadow, Woods, and Swamp, McLean Bogs, Eames Bog, Purvis Road Natural Area, Ringwood Ponds, Tarr-Young Preserve

Source of plant

Sunshine Farm & Gardens

Description

T. grandiflorum is native to rich woods and thickets from Quebec to Ontario to Minnesota south to Alabama and Georgia. Leaves, petals and sepals all come in groups of three. From an underground rhizome, a stout, unbranched, naked stem rises in spring to 8-18" tall topped by an apical whorl of three prominently-veined, ovate to egg-shaped, green leaves (each typically to 3-4" long but sometimes to 6"). From the center of the leaf whorl emerges a single flower in April-May on an erect to leaning stalk rising above the leaves to 2-3" tall. Each flower (to 3 1/2" across) has three flaring, ovate, wavy-edged, white petals subtended by three smaller green sepals. Flower petals are reflexed at the tips. Flowers acquire pink tones with age. Flowers give way to berry-like capsules. Seeds are disbursed by ants. Foliage will usually die to the ground by late summer, particularly if soils are allowed to dry.

USDA Hardiness Zone

4

Special characteristics

This wildflower, the provincial plant of Ontario, boasts robust white petals that turn pink with age. Young plants take many years before they bloom, but individuals can live for hundreds of years once established.

Status

L4|S5|G5