Trillium

Trillium, Trillium ovatum
Liliaceae – Lily family

The leaves and petals are arranged as triplets (“tri” meaning three) in this genus. A single stalk supports the trio of ovoid (“ovatum”) leaves that taper to a drip point to shed excess water.

Above the triplet of leaves rises the prominent white, three-petal flower with six yellow stamens. The long-lasting flowers gradually turn pink and then red-purple. When the petals at last are shriveled, the three-parted ovary has matured into a plump, ridged seed capsule that splits open upon maturity. Attached to each brown seed is a morsel of food for ants, enticing them to carry the seeds to their burrows. The ingenious method of plant dispersal is an example of mutually beneficial partnerships between the plants and animals in nature.

The broad leaves persist through summer, using the dim filtered light of the forest floor to store food in the underground bulb for next season’s bloom.

Perhaps because the sight of early spring trillium blossoms is enchanting, at least one Native group uses the pounded bulbs a “love medicine.” In another Native group, a woman who wishes a man for a lover drops a cooked trillium bulb into his food. Far less romantically, several other Native groups use the juice of the bulb as an eye medication, and the scrapings of the bulb to bring a boil to a head.

Information courtesy of “The View From Springbrook Park; an Illustrated Natural History” by Ed Chinn.

Sponsored by Friends of Springbrook Park, Lake Oswego, OR