Seriously Seeking Trillium
A wildflower for May
by Bob & Jorja Feldman
From the May, 2018 issue
Trillium is the quintessential spring wildflower, sought after by nature lovers, photographers, and those just out for a walk in the woods on a fine May day. There are over forty species of trillium; at michiganflora.net, the University of Michigan Herbarium describes ten found in Michigan.
The species prevalent around Ann Arbor is the white or large-flowered trillium. According to county parks naturalist Shawn Severance, the three triangular white "petals" that give the trillium its name are actually modified leaves called bracts. Initially white, these eventually turn a pretty pink later in the bloom period.
A lucky looker may spot a different species of trillium in the midst of a field of the more common white trilliums. Such is the case with the maroon flower included among our images, which was found at Mary Beth Doyle Park. City natural areas preservation stewardship specialist Becky Gajewski identified it as a drooping trillium.
Neither birds nor wind are responsible for spreading the seeds of this plant. Ants are attracted to savory structures attached to the seeds; they eat them and discard the seeds.
Most often we have seen trilliums growing spottily in small patches. However, there are two local standout locations where white trilliums carpet the forest floor in large masses. One is Mary Beth Doyle Park; the other, according to Severance and county parks horticulturist Kathy Squiers, is Britton Woods at Nelson Meade County Farm Park.
Britton Woods is easily accessed from the park's Medford Rd. entrance. The woods are right in front of the parking lot, and, in season, any of the trails should lead to trilliums.
At Mary Beth Doyle, park in the main parking lot off Birch Hollow Dr. Start by walking east on the asphalt path around the pond towards the woods. The path shortly forks. Stay to the right, and then take the dirt trail which intersects with the asphalt on the left. It is narrow and easy to miss, but there is
a signpost (not trail-related) opposite the turn. This trail can be very muddy, with several intermittent sections of two-plank-wide boardwalk. All of our photos were taken along this stretch.
Gajewski lists Hollywood Park, Leslie Woods Nature Area, Sugarbush Park, Black Pond Woods Nature Area, and Lakewood Nature Area as other good trillium spots. Severance suggests Scio Woods Preserve, Draper-Houston Meadows Preserve, Kosch-Headwaters Preserve, the Nature Conservancy's Nan Weston Nature Preserve, and the Legacy Land Conservancy Creekshead Nature Preserve. And Taylor Myatt, a stewardship and outreach specialist for the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, told us there's a good patch at the conservancy's LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve.
Walking among trilliums, we try to watch our steps very carefully. They are easily damaged and may take years to recover, if at all, from picking or other injury; some are protected species.
In both Mary Beth Doyle and Nelson Meade parks, trilliums have benefitted from controlled burns that limit invasive species. With good stewardship, this showy spring wildflower will continue to flourish for future generations to enjoy
[Originally published in May, 2018.]
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