Monday, January 19, 2009

The Deceiving Trillium

The Chattahoochee River arises from clear springs in the Blue Ridge Mountains in northeast Georgia. It gurgles down from the wooded mountains, running southwest across the hilly Piedmont, passing through northwest Atlanta, then over the fall line onto the coastal plain, turning almost straight south, forming the southern part of the boundary between Alabama and Georgia, then becoming the Apalachicola River, across the panhandle of Florida to the Gulf.
This storied river valley is the prime site where Trillium decipiens (the Chattahoochee wakerobin) grows; it is pictured above in our garden blooming last April. This is a very striking trillium species. It is closely related to, and closely resembles, another trillium species found in this same small area in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida; Trillium underwoodii. In fact, "decipiens" may refer to this close, and therefore deceptive, resemblance of decipiens to underwoodii. However, decipiens is taller than underwoodii, which gives it a certain stateliness. With its variegated leaves, and sharp, erect flowers, it is a gem in our garden.
Every spring, I worry about both of these southern trilliums, because they arise very early from the ground, and often therefore encounter snow. Indeed, it is said that both of these species (decipiens and underwoodii) usually dwindle away in northern gardens, because of cold damage, but I've had both of them for a number of years, and they just seem to get bigger; this may be luck or lucky placement; hopefully it's not misplaced optimism.

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Ontario's provincial flower is a trillium (Trilliium grandiflorum) that is fairly common in wooded areas. Same church, different pew, I know, but they do seem hardy as Ontario has brutal winters. They're a lovely little plant.
Hmm, I wonder if this is the plant that my mom had in her garden- we were all wondering what it was and it looked quite similar. She doesn't live there anymore, so I can't check it out- sure is beautiful.
Nancy... grandiflorum is a lovely thing, and I have both the single and double in the garden.

Tessa... there are lots of different species of trillium, so it probably was one. They are all lovely.
What a distinctive trillium. Very pretty! I consider myself so fortunate to have transplanted one from our woodland property to our backyard! (When I dug it up, it had 5 leaves and 5 petioles. This past Spring - it's first in my backyard - it had 4 leaves and 4 petioles. Do you supposed it'll revert back to the three this Spring?) ;-)
I had no idea there were this many trilliums. I should have known, though. Trilliums were some of the first transplants from nature to my garden. There is a whole carpet of them in a small woods near us.
Shady... you do see them with extra leaves sometime (in fact there is a LOT of variability in trilliums; they must be pretty unstable). I don't know what will happen with yours; it will be interesting to see. I assume it's recurvatum/

Kylee... I think I recall there are 40-50 species.
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