Trilliums (Trillii?)

The things I don’t know make a long list.

Before my recent trip to southern Ontario, I did know that the trillium was Ontario’s official flower.  Now I know more things.  Or, maybe, fewer.

I know that the white trillium – Trillium rhomboideum grandiflorum – is just one of 50 accepted trillium species.  (Is there controversy over the acceptance of trillium species?  The mind boggles.) 

Single flower of white trillium.I know that the white trillium is also the official wildflower of Ohio, so the respective Major League Soccer teams from Toronto and Columbus compete for the Trillium Cup.

I know that the very similar red flower in the woods is, not surprisingly, the red trillium.  But, entirely surprisingly, it’s also known as American True-Love, Birthroot, Bumblebee Root, Ill-scented Wake-robin, Indian Shamrock, Purple Trillium, Stinking Benjamin, Stinking Willie, Threeleaf Nightshade, Wake-robin.  (Ill-scented wake-robin?  Are you kidding me?) (Apparently not.)

I know that in New York state, it’s illegal to pick the red trillium, no matter what you call it.

Single red trillium flowerFinally, I know that ants disperse their seeds, unless beetles interfere by eating the desirable bits off the seeds, making them less attractive to the ants.

Sometimes, learning new things just raises more questions.




  1. Jim Taylor

    My Latin is getting rather rusty, but I think the plural of an “—um” is “—a”. So it would be “trillia”, wouldn’t it? “The “—-i” plural goes with “—us” if I remember correctly Wayne and Shuster’s famous line:
    Gimme a martinus!
    Don’t you mean a martini?
    If I wanted two of them, I’d have said so.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Well, of course you’re right, and my father would wonder why he badgered me into a year of Latin in high school. And he loved that martinus joke.

  2. Tom Watson

    A week ago yesterday I had the privilege of attending with a family the spreading of a deceased family member’s ashes in a bed of white trilliums in a beautiful, secluded, wooded area. It was the perfect spot, so peaceful.

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