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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Red Trillium- Color Variant

This is hands-down the most phenomenal plant sighting of my recent trip to Ohio and Alabama. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I did accomplish the deed. I was waiting to share with you until I had my suspicions confirmed by someone with professional plant knowledge. I sent my question off to a couple of people, and Tony Reznicek (University of Michigan) was the first to respond. He verified that I had correctly identified this flower.

First of all, look at this forest opening full of trillium. Do you see anything odd about it? Probably not, it's too long a shot.

large-flowered and red trillium color variant growing together

But the trilliums aren't all the same kind! If you were there you would see how some of them look yellowish or even yellow-green. The large-flowered trilliums fade to pink as they age, so I suspected a different species. As far as I knew there is only one yellow trillium, but I wasn't sure of exactly what key features to look for. I tried to take enough photos to help me later.

red trillium color variant white yellow green

Got home and looked it up. Definitely not yellow trillium! What the heck is it? So I got out my serious guide to plant identification, Britton and Brown Illustrated Guide to Plants of the Northern States and Canada in three volumes.

When I was still at Cantwell Cliffs where we found these, this was the biggest thing that convinced me it was not the large-flowered trillium. See how the flower on the left is much shallower, and snuggles into the sepals instead of having a deep cup of petals like the one on the right?

red trillium color variant white yellow green
Then there are the business parts of the flower. Here is large-flowered on the left and the mystery trillium on the right. See how the stamens are different? See how the ovary of the one on the right is sitting right out in plain view? And it's pink.

red trillium color variant white yellow green
Sometimes that ovary is deep maroon.

red trillium color variant white yellow green
That was the aha moment. And Britton and Brown said that red trillium can occasionally be found with yellow, green or white petals. And there you have it. This is a red trillium! How awesome is that? That's one problem with flowers named for their usual color. Anyway, this is Trillium erectum, as in erect... the flowers are above the leaves and not curved downward below the leaves.

In that same patch there were a few red trilliums that actually were red!

red trillium color variant white yellow green
Color variants occur more often than you might think. I also have a picture (a very poor one) of a white pink lady slipper orchid that I saw a number of years ago.

In other news: It was a very productive day although no actual writing occurred. I spent the morning getting yet more typos fixed in the first three Dubois Files books and uploaded to all the different platforms. Hopefully that will be the last of those edits- good grief! Then I mowed lawn and dug up some autumn olive. Went to the bank and to get mower gas. Took a 5-mile walk. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same. Maybe I'll be able to justify driving a bit to hike an actual trail. Maybe I'll just finish the mowing. Stay tuned. And I'm sitting here breathing in the scent and sight of a jar full of lilac. Wonderful day!

See Cantwell Cliffs
See Almost Doubling My Trillium Life List
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Ann said...

identifying these things sure can be tricky.

vanilla said...

Very cool. Well done.