Trillium blooms in Ontario.
Trillium’s Three, Along Winding Roads
- “Three bright white petals
- Three large green rounded leaves
- Three ‘blasts’ the trillium white star
- Points them close look-see!”
- ~ Diane M Quinlan
1. Trilliums are heralds of spring
They quickly bloom in early spring when big trees are still “naked”. Botanically, they are “spring ephemerals.” The plant is most common in rich deciduous and mixed upland forests. Trilliums grow from a short rhizome and produce a single, large, snow-white and odourless flower atop a whorl of three leaves.
If you catch the moment and go to the woods in the right time, you’ll be mesmerized looking at the white carpet covering everything around. Millions of individual flowers form a spectacular annual display.
2. Trillium is extremely fragile
Trilliums are extremely fragile: if you pick the flower no other trillium will grow in its place, even if the rhizome is left undisturbed.
Trillium fruits are released in the summer, containing about 16 seeds on average.
4. Ants spread trillium seeds
Ants are agents of trillium seeds dispersal. At maturity, the base and core of the trillium ovary turns soft and spongy. This flash attracts ants: they collect the seeds and transport them away from the parent plant. Ants are attracted to it so much that they often bore holes into the fruit instead of waiting for it to drop off on its own. The ants carry the seeds back to their nest where they eat the flash and discard the seeds. Here the seeds eventually germinate, an average of about 1 meter away from the parent plant. Ant-mediated dispersal is effective in increasing the plant’s ability to outcross, but ineffective in bringing the plant very far.
5. Trillium requires 7-15 years to produce flowers
In nature, trilliums grow very slow. White trillium (Trillium Grandiflorum) typically requires seven to ten years in optimal conditions to reach flowering size. Flowering age is determined largely by the surface of the leaf and size of the rhizome instead of age alone.
6. Trillium needs 2 years to germinate
Trillium seeds require double dormancy, meaning they normally take at least two years to fully germinate. Trillium grandiflorum has long been thought to self-pollinate based on the fact that pollinators had rarely been observed visiting the plants; some plants may only be visited by a single pollinator in a season.
7. Trillium loves light
Trilliums are very sensitive to light and usually bend toward the sun as it moves across the sky. The blossoms are usually facing the sun.
8. Deer loves trilliums
Trilliums are a favoured food of white-tailed deer, with a preference for white trillium to the exclusion of others (if a variety of trilliums is available).
9. Trillium is called birthwort
Several trillium species contain phytochemicals called sapogenins. In folk medicine they have been used as uterine stimulants, the inspiration for the common name birthwort.
10. Trillium – Ontario floral emblem
A white trillium is the emblem and official flower of Ontario. It was designated the provincial emblem of Ontario in 1937 (Floral Emblem Act). The adoption of the White Trillium grew out of a movement during the First World War to choose a national floral emblem appropriate for planting on the graves of Canadian servicemen overseas. It was recommended by a special committee of botanists to the Ontario Horticultural Association. In a British botanical work published in 1760 there is a reference to the trilliums as “the herb True Love of Canada.”
11. Trillium – official symbol of the Government of Ontario
A white trillium is an official symbol of the Government of Ontario. As an official symbol of Ontario, a stylized trillium flower features prominently in the wordmark of the Government of Ontario and on the official flag of the province’s French-speaking minority. Government agencies and programs also frequently incorporate the word “trillium” in their names, such as the Trillium Gift of Life Network (organ donation management agency) and the Ontario Trillium Foundation (which provides grants to nonprofit and charitable organizations). It is also frequently used by the Canadian Heraldic Authority to represent Ontario in grants of arms
Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to pick a White Trillium in Ontario. However, picking the flower can seriously injure the plant and it can take years to recover. Enjoy the gentle beauty of trillium white flowers, photograph them, point them out to children and friends, but do not kill them.