See "Species of Trillium" below.
Trillium (trillium, wakerobin, tri flower, birthroot) is a genus of about 40–50 species of spring ephemeral perennials, native to temperate regions of North America and Asia.
It used to be treated in the family Trilliaceae or Trillium family, a part of the Liliales or Lily order. The AGP II treats Trilliaceae as a synonym of the family Melanthiaceae.
The above ground parts of Trilliums are scapes with three large, leaf-like bracts with the true leaves reduced to underground papery coverings around the rhizomes.
Typical species are Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium) in eastern North America and Trillium ovatum (Western Trillium). Both have white flowers that turn pink as they age.
Picking a trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing food for the next year. A plant takes many years to recover. For this reason in Michigan and Minnesota it is illegal to pick and/or transplant trilliums from public lands without a permit from the State.
While it is a popular belief that it is illegal to pick the common Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium) in Ontario, in reality they are only protected in provincial parks and land owned by conservation authorities. However, the rare Trillium flexipes (drooping trillium) is protected by law in Ontario, because of its very small Canadian population.
Trillium is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants. At maturity, the base and core of the trillium ovary turns soft and spongy. Trillium seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants extract the seeds from the decaying ovary and take them to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and put the seeds in their garbage, where they germinate in a rich growing medium.
Some trilliums have a flower which is bent downward, below the leaves.
A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Canadian province of Ontario. It is an official symbol of the Government of Ontario. The large white trillium is the official wildflower of Ohio.
In a 1918 publication, Joseph E. Meyer called it "Beth Root" (probably a corruption of "birthroot") and claimed that an astringent tonic derived from the root was useful in controlling bleeding and diarrhea.
The fruit of purple trillium (Trillium erectum)
Foliage of the prairie trillium (Trillium recurvatum)
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