An April Walk in the Woods: Part 1
This the first of a three part blog—
1. White Trilliums:
April is almost upon us and I am looking forward to the arrival of the spring woodland wildflowers. I’m lucky to live on a small plot of earth that includes woodlands at the back of the property. The lovely white trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, is native to North America, and blooms in my area in showy groups in late April.
When my husband was a boy growing up in the foothills of the Adirondacks, they grew so abundantly he thought their correct name was “trillions.” Here in our own woods they are not nearly as numerous. Trilliums are apparently also beloved by deer, and if they eat all the greenery above the rootstock, the plant will die. The plants need those leaves.
It was from the trillium that I learned about ephemeral plants. Ephemeral means fleeting or short-lived. Ephemeral plants, however, are not short-lived, but their appearance is fleeting because they look like they die. In reality they are going through a period of biological rest, like suspended animation. After flowering, the leaves are needed to send nutrients to the roots to be stored before they go dormant. This allows them enough energy to grow and flower again the following spring. Removal of the foliage, by humans or deer, will be the death of these woodland treasures.
The “tri” in trillium describes the fact that the parts of the plant grow in groups of three. Each flower is made up of three petals surrounded by three sepals that sprout up above three broad leaves.
I once heard someone who is not a flower person describe trilliums as “those disgusting stinky white flowers that grow in big patches in the woods.” The description made me gasp with indignation on behalf of that beautiful flower! However, one of their common names is the "stinkpot." I refuse to call them that, but even I admit this flower I love does not have a pleasant odor.
I felt guilty sacrificing a trillium flower along with a set of leaves for my art. I was careful to take only one stem from a robust plant, and composted the used components back into the woods.
I named the little fairy girl who took form Leah, from the “liu” part of trillium. But then I discovered the Gaelic meaning of Leah is “the light of the sun.” Do you think she could have somehow communicated to me what she wanted her name to be because she comes out when the increasing sunlight warms the air in April? I like to think so.