By Mark Lyke, Horticulture Manager
Hiking and exploring through the neighborhood park woods as a youth, I remember the first time my eyes came upon a small flower with three white petals along the path. Little did I know, my first lesson in trail ethics was about to be taught to me that morning. I remember wanting to pick those delicate flowers to take home to mom. A gentleman politely explained not to pick the Trilliums, but to let everyone enjoy their beauty as it took seven years for a new plant to form a bloom.
Trilliums are a spring ephemeral that can be observed at Lakewold along with different varieties of Erythronium starting in March. To the gardener, once the ephemerals are in bloom, spring is just around the corner. You can observe the trilliums three “leaves” that are actually bracts. Spring ephemerals emerge in late winter or early spring before the leaves appear on trees. Their life cycle is usually six to eight weeks. An early spring walk in the woods in an area covered with Trilliums of different size, shape and colors is one of those special moments while on an adventurous walk.
Trilliums are actually easy to grow. They can handle both partial sun and shade. The soil should be organic and moist to wet, yet well drained. Trilliums are commonly found in open forests and woods. They seem to grow happily in the mixed or coniferous forests of Western Washington.
The fleshy elaiosomes surrounds the seeds of the Trillium structure in the seed pod. The elaiosomes are eaten by insects to reveal the egg shaped seeds. When the Trillium seeds are ripe, both ants and wasps help in the final dispersal of the seed across the garden.
Several species contain the chemical sapogenins which have been used traditionally as a uterine stimulant. This historical medicinal use of the Trillium has inspired the common name birthwort. Lakewold is home to a large collection of Trilliums that are on display during the month of April.
We have been lucky enough to obtain a few flats of Trilliums that are available for sale this spring at Lakewold’s Garden Shop. Now open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm, you can find Trillium ovatum, Trillium chloropeta, and Trillium parviflorum at 12317 Gravelly Lake Drive, here in Lakewood.
Hardiness: To zone 5
Mature Size: 8″-15″
Exposure: Shade/Part Sun
Bloom Time: April-June
Moisture Needs: moist
Origin: United States