Saturday, May 26, 2012

Painted Trilliums

© Dave Spier

My first encounter with a Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) was Memorial Day weekend, 1971, on a canoe trip up the Oswegatchie River from Inlet to High Falls. I have since found this species in Finger Lakes bogs which harbor a number of Adirondack-like plants. Its natural range is Canada south to Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and it continues south in the Appalachians as far as Georgia.

Crimson veining marks the base of each wavy, white petal in contrast to the surrounding three green sepals and three leaves making the Painted Trillium a spectacular woodland wildflower. It tolerates shade and is generally found on well-drained, but moist, acidic soils. Cool, deep humus is ideal. Memorial Day is actually getting late to find it still blooming; the peak is earlier in the month, but higher elevations will delay its blooming. The one in the photo was growing in Zurich Bog, along with Yellow Lady's-slippers, on May 15. The Painted tends to bloom after the Red Trillium found in late April and the Large-flowered (White) Trillium that blooms earlier in May, but these impressions span many years and I'm sure weather influences the relative timing.

I think of the word "trillium" as a contraction of tri-lilium, meaning a member of the Lily Family with all parts in three's or multiples of three. Three leaves, three sepals, three petals, three-parted (female) stigma and six (male) stamens...

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  1. comment received from Molly Marquand via the Linked-In Botany group: "Beautiful! We have lots of T. undulatum growing on my family's property just inside the park near Gloversville, NY. Also what I am hoping is Arethusa bulbosa. Happy to have found your website! I work for the New England Wildflower Society but am a New Yorker at heart- do you know of any organizations or groups that monitor NYS flora/do plant based conservation there? Thanks!"
    Posted by Molly Marquand

  2. These 2 groups might be of interest:
    1. Adirondack Botanical Society -
    and their Google group -
    2. NY Flora Assoc. -
    Direct hyperlinks can be found in the right sidebar links sections.