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  • Writer's pictureEllie Roden

Welcome Spring with Trillium

Updated: Jan 28, 2019

We called them Stinkpots but their real name is Trillium

There are many trillium species but Trillium Erectum or Red Trillium, otherwise known as Wake Robin, is perhaps the most familiar of all trillium species in the woods and forests of eastern USA. As kids, my brothers and I called them stinkpots because of their unpleasant odor when put close to your nose.

Actually, Stinking Benjamin is really another nickname for Red Trillium, so apparently we weren't the only ones who found the smell a bit offensive. As its common name, Wake Robin, suggests, it is one of the earliest blooming of our native flowers.

In the spring, you can find trillium blooming in woodlands and hedgerows throughout most of the country. The plants are easy to identify: Each stem has a whorl of three leaves and a single flower with three petals and three sepals.

Red trillium

Trillium is the appropriate name for these wildflowers for everything about the plant comes in threes - the leaves, flower petals and the brackets of the flowers.

Many Kinds of Trillium

The Red Trillium may be the most common in the northeast but there are more than 40 species of trilliums and most of them are native to the U.S. Two of my favorites that I occasionally see in the woods and shady roadsides here in Vermont are Great White Trillium and Painted Trillium. They are truly among the most elegant of wildflowers.

Great White Trillium

Painted Trillium

L - Great White Trillium R- Painted Trillium

Are Trillium a Protected Flower?

For many years, I was led to believe that trillium are a protected wildflower, but the truth is it depends on the kind of trillium and the state in which you live. In some states, the Great White Trillium and Painted Trillium are protected. Here in Vermont, trillium are not on the endangered species lists. However, since White Trillium and Painted Trillium are not nearly as common as Red Trillium, I refrain from picking them even if they're not officially endangered. It can take up to two years for fresh seed to germinate and another five to seven years for plants to bloom. I grow my own crop of Red Trillium in my shade garden for the purpose of picking and pressing them.

Pressing Trillium

red trillium pressed flower art

Pressing Red Trillium is actually quite easy. I clip off the center seeds so the flower will lay flat in the flower press. As with most of my flowers, I press trillium in a Microfleur, a microwaveable flower press. The key to successful pressing is to get all the moisture out of the flower. With the microfleur, it just take 2-3 zaps in the microwave at about 35 seconds each to press. When the trillium are stiff and paper like (no drooping at all!) they are dried and ready to use.

The perfect companions for Trillium are fiddleheads and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which are also early spring woodland wildflowers. One of my more popular pressed flower original pieces is this triptych comprised of these three wildflowers that live harmoniously together in the woods beyond my backyard. It can be ordered in a horizontal format as pictured below or a vertical format. Contact me if you are interested is having this wildflower piece in your home.

Trillium pressed flower art

trillium pressed flower notecards

If you love trillium and want to share them with others why not send one of these notecards with a personal message inside?

Printed from an original design these pressed flower cards are available in packages of 6 identical note cards. The cards are suitable for framing and a package of 6 makes a wonderful gift.

I hope you will have the joy of seeing trillium in the woods or along shady roadsides this spring!

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