Trillium oostingii by Doug Ruhren

Trillium season does truly start at the turn of the calendar year, in a small way one might argue, but indeed the earliest do start in late December and early January, just foliage at first but it is the mottled foliage of the sessile trilliums that is so beautiful. One such trillium which blooms in March is Trillium oostingii, the Wateree River toadshade. I’ve been very excited about it ever since I saw it last spring in the gardens of Juniper Level Botanic Garden. It’s a robust thing despite it being very rare in the wild. But then again there is little to no correlation between rarity and robustness. Organisms often become rare due to circumstances beyond their control such as human-caused habitat destruction. It is one of those rare plants that could become more common in gardens than in the wild. (I am sitting in a room as I type this, that is also occupied by a lady palm, Rhapis excelsa, which is only known from cultivated stock. It is not known in the wild. Despite this it is very widely grown as an ornamental.)

The few photos I had seen of Trillium oostingii did not suggest that it was a robust thing. This speaks volumes of the value of visiting gardens to experience plants firsthand or even better, to grow them. I have long felt that I don’t truly know a plant until I have grown it. My education continues every day. Visiting Juniper Level Botanic Garden for nearly four decades has been a big part of my education.

Trillium oostingii

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