Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Melanthiaceae

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

The Great White Trillium loves to grow in vast colonies. It’s not all that common, but when you do find a stand of them, it may cover acres, as it does here along the aptly named Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel, where these plants were all blooming in early May.

Sometimes a flower takes on a pink flush as it ages, as you see above.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TRÍLLIUM L. WAKE ROBIN. BIRTHROOT. Sepals 3, lanceolate, spreading, herbaceous, persistent. Petals 3, larger, withering in age. Stamens б; anthers linear, on short filaments, adnate. Styles awl-shaped or slender, spreading or recurved above, persistent, stigmatic down the inner side. Seeds ovate, horizontal, several in each cell. — Low perennial herbs, with a stout and simple stem rising from a short and praemorse tuber-like rootstock, bearing at the summit a whorl of 3 ample, commonly broadly ovate, more or less ribbed but netted-veined leaves, and a terminal large flower; in spring. (Name from tree, three; all the parts being in threes.) — Monstrosities are not rare with the calyx and sometimes petals changed to leaves, or the parts of the flower increased in number.

T. grandiflorum (Michx.) Salisb. Leaves less broadly rhombic-ovate; pedicel erect or ascending; petals oblanceolate, often broadly so (4-6 cm. long), white turning rose-color or marked with green; stamens with stout filaments (persistently green about the fruit) and anthers, exceeding the very slender erect or suberect and somewhat coherent stigmas; fruit subglobose. Rich woods, w. Que. and w. Vt. to Minn., Mo., and N. C.

In Wild Flowers Every Child Should Know, Frederic William Stack gives us this description:

LARGE FLOWERED WAKE-ROBIN

Trillium grandiflbrum. Lily Family.

The Trilliums rank among the foremost of our native woodland wild flowers, and they possess an individuality that compares favourably with the exclusive traits of the Arbutus, the Gentians, the Lobelias, and the Orchids. This beautiful, large, white-flowered species is one of the choicest and best known of its family. It is found during May and June, in damp, rich woods, and grows from eight to eighteen inches high. The single, smooth, stout, juicy stalk terminates with a whorl of three large, handsome, broadly egg-shaped, triple-ribbed leaves which taper suddenly at the apex and are narrowed to a stemless base. They are loose-textured, prominently veined, and toothless. The large, waxy-white, solitary flower is borne on a short stem that springs upright from the centre of the leaves. The three thin, broad, strongly veined, and long-pointed petals are larger and much longer than the three spreading, green, lanceshaped sepals, and they turn outward with a large graceful curve. They are scentless, and as they age they become pink. The single berry is nearly black when matured. This showy-flowered Trillium ranges from Canada to Florida, and west to Minnesota and Missouri.


Bloody Butcher (Trillium recurvatum)

Why is this clump of Bloody Butchers here? It was blooming in early May in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon—but neither Gray nor the USDA PLANTS database places any wild populations of Trillium recurvatum anywhere in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, or even within two hundred miles. It is a prairie-state plant, almost unknown in Ohio, and not common till Indiana, although (oddly) there is apparently an isolated wild population way over in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Since we first photographed this stand last year, the clump has doubled in size, so it is well established; but there is not another anywhere in the park. Have we discovered another isolated wild population, like the one in Lancaster County? Did someone mistakenly introduce this plant to Bird Park on the assumption that it was a native wildflower? Introduced or not, it is thriving and multiplying, so we have to call it naturalized now.

The Bloody Butcher is similar to the Toadshade (Trillium sessile), which also has mottled leaves and upright mahogany flowers; but the species name recurvatum points out the distinctive feature of this plant: the sepals that curve backward, and the petals that curve back in, making a little enclosed apartment to give the pollinators some privacy. If, however, we have wrongly identified this plant, we trust that the Internet will come to our rescue and correct us.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TRÍLLIUM L. WAKE ROBIN. BIRTHROOT. Sepals 3, lanceolate, spreading, herbaceous, persistent. Petals 3, larger, withering in age. Stamens 6; anthers linear, on short filaments, adnate. Styles awl-shaped or slender, spreading or recurved above, persistent, stigmatic down the inner side. Seeds ovate, horizontal, several in each cell. — Low perennial herbs, with a stout and simple stem rising from a short and praemorse tuber-like rootstock, bearing at the summit a whorl of 3 ample, commonly broadly ovate, more or less ribbed but netted-veined leaves, and a terminal large flower; in spring. (Name from tres, three; all the parts being in threes.) — Monstrosities are not rare with the calyx and sometimes petals changed to leaves, or the parts of the flower increased in number.

Ovary and fruit 6-angled and more or less winged.

Flower sessile; leaves usually mottled.

T. recurvàtum Beck. Leaves contracted at the base into a petiole, ovate, oblong, or obovate; sepals reflexed; petals pointed, the base narrowed into a claw, oblong-lanceolate to -ovate, dark purple; fruit ovoid, strongly winged above, 1.8 cm. long. — Rich woods, O. to Minn., Ark., “Miss.,” and Tenn.


Wake-Robin (Trillium erectum), Yellow Form

This rare greenish-yellow form of the Wake-Robin grew above the Squaw Run in Fox Chapel, where it was blooming at the beginning of May. Wake-Robins are most commonly red, but in Fox Chapel they are almost exclusively white (see pictures here and here); among countless thousands, this was the only yellow clump we found. The odor is described in the Flora of North America as “like a wet dog,” which is unmistakable, and accounts for another common name, Stinking Willie. It’s not a flower to sniff with delight.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TRÍLLIUM L. WAKE ROBIN. BIRTHROOT. Sepals 3, lanceolate, spreading, herbaceous, persistent. Petals 3, larger, withering in age. Stamens б; anthers linear, on short filaments, adnate. Styles awl-shaped or slender, spreading or recurved above, persistent, stigmatic down the inner side. Seeds ovate, horizontal, several in each cell. — Low perennial herbs, with a stout and simple stem rising from a short and praemorse tuber-like rootstock, bearing at the summit a whorl of 3 ample, commonly broadly ovate, more or less ribbed but netted-veined leaves, and a terminal large flower; in spring. (Name from tree, three; all the parts being in threes.) — Monstrosities are not rare with the calyx and sometimes petals changed to leaves, or the parts of the flower increased in number.

Ovary and fruit 6-angled and more or less winged.

Flower pediceled; connective narrow, not produced; leaves subsessile.

Anthers at anthesis exceeding the stigmas.

T. eréctum L. Leaves very broadly rhombic, shortly acuminate ; peduncle (2—8 cm. long) usually more or less inclined or declínate; petals ovate to lanceolate (18-36 mm. long), brown-purple or often white or greenish or pinkish; stamens exceeding the stout distinct spreading or recurved stigmas; ovary purple; fruit ovoid, 2.5 cm. long, reddish. — Rich woods, e. Que. to Ont., southw. to Pa. and in the mts, to N. C. — Flowers ill-scented.


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