White Trillium

Posted by Tammy Sons on 31st Jan 2016

The Trillium grandiflorum is more commonly referred to as the white trillium, great white trillium, and white wake-robin is a perennial of the lily family. Its native habitat in North America from northern Quebec to the southern parts of the United States through the Appalachian Mountains into the northern part of Georgia and westward to Minnesota. The white trillium is easy to spot with its attractive three-petaled white flowers, opening from the late spring to the early summer.

Ecologists have extensively studied the white trillium due to some unique features it possesses. It is representative of a plant who propagates through myrmecochory. What is myrmecochory? It simply means that its seeds are dispersed by ants. The plant produces a seed with food bodies that are rich in lipids, amino acid and other nutrients that are desirable by ants. Seed dispersal by ants is accomplished when the worker and carries the seed back to the ant colony after which the 'good stuff' is removed or fed directly to ant larvae. After this, the seed is usually discarded in underground middens (an underground dump for domestic waste) or ejected from the nest.

Some species have pink instead of white petals, others extra petals, also known as 'double' forms, are naturally quite common in the species. As a matter of record, the species is the most popular of its genus cultivation, which has led to conservation concerns due to the majority commercially available plants being collected from the wild. As the plant is attractive and well known, it serves as the provincial emblem of Ontario, the state wildflower of Ohio and is often used in heraldry in Canada.