Photo/Illustration: Gene Bush
Trilliums (Trillium spp. and cvs.) are among the native woodland plants I treasure most. I cannot imagine late winter and spring without their symmetry of threes: three leaves, three sepals, and three petals—hence, the common name “trinity flower.” With more than 40 species to drool over, these jewels of the forest floor are a collector’s dream. Some big, some small, some white, some deep red—trilliums have a lot to offer. Most species originated in various regions of the United States, offering many gardeners a chance to grow these remarkable plants. Best of all, trilliums are fairly easygoing and will flourish and blend beautifully with other woodland plants.
Every trillium is special in its own way. I encourage gardeners to seek out the best plants for their gardens. When choosing trilliums, however, be aware that some plants are protected under law and should not be dug from state or federal lands. At least one species, Trillium persistens, is listed as endangered by the federal government.
A trillium species may be listed as endangered in one state and not in another; check with your state department of natural resources before making your selection. Almost all trilliums sold from nurseries originate from some source in nature, such as private property, public land with permits, or rescues from construction projects. Be sure you acquire your plants from a reputable source; nursery-propagated stock is always preferable.