Spring is back. For gardeners and plant lovers it is one of the most exciting times of the year that brings their beloved perennial plants back to life after a long winter sleep.
Among these plants is the epitome of American wildflowers known as Trillium grandiflorum (large-flowered trillium). The name “Trillium” refers to the plant structure: three petals, three sepals and three leaves (which are technically bracts).
In the beds on the north side of the Shade Border, pure white flowers of Trillium grandiflorum start to bloom in late April, gradually fading to pink after a month-long display. Trillium grandiflorum seeds require double dormancy−it takes two years for seeds to germinate. Even under optimal conditions they take seven to ten years to reach flowering size. As a result, the vast majority of plants sold in commercial nurseries are believed to be collected from the wild. Such heavy collecting, combined with other pressures such as habitat destruction, may effectively endanger this plant in some areas. In the Shade Border, other notable Trillium species include red flowering Trillium sessile (toadshade) and yellow flowering T. luteum (yellow trillium).
In early spring, another American native, Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple), is also in abundance in the Shade Border. Despite the common name “mayapple”, it is the flower that appears in early May not the fruit, which appears in the summer. Mayapple’s anemone-shaped flowers are usually hidden under its umbrella shaped leaves. Its fully ripened, egg-shaped and fleshy fruit is edible; other parts of the plant, however, including rhizomes, leaves and seeds, are poisonous. The root and plant contain Podophyllin, currently being studied for its ability to fight cancer, and other healing properties.
This post was authored by Harnek Singh, a Wave Hill Gardener. Harnek tends the Shade Border, Monocot and Aquatic Gardens.