Nestled among the rich woodlands that stretch across Alabama are around 18 different species of trillium that blanket the forest floor in early spring, a number that fiercely rivals any other state! Although each type of trillium is similar in its small stature and skirt of three leaves, there are actually remarkable differences between these harbingers of spring from their flower color, shape, and leaf mottling.
By MOLLY HENDRY
Bashful wakerobin (Trillium catesbaei)
Named after the botanist Mark Catesby, the famous British plant explorer and artist, this trillium has a nodding pink flower that despite its shy demeanor is sure to brighten a shady nook in the garden.
Yellow wakerobin (Trillium luteum)
If the mottled leaves and upright yellow flower of this trillium don’t first catch your eye, perhaps you will be stopped by the sweet lemony scent that drifts from the yellow wakerobin in the early spring months.
Lance-leaf wakerobin (Trillium lanceolatum)
This trillium stands a head taller than other species with notably slender leaves. Its maroon flowers have three petals that also stand upright, twisting vertically around each other as if in a dance!
Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)
The most common and vigorous trillium in our native woods, the sweet little Besty has distinctly mottled leaves with a sweet scented maroon flower cascading down wooded slopes near creeksides in spring.
Did you know?
Trillium spread throughout the forest floor by ants, a process called myrmecochory! These tiny insects love to feast on the sweet coating then discard the remaining seed, planting the next generation of trillium!