Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Western Trillium - official start of spring

White flower sighting alert! I just enjoyed spotting my first Western Trillium emerging from the forest debris on our property. Let the show begin! A lot of things will be coming sooner this spring than any other in most of your memories. We all know how soon the winter snow pack in the Cascades will be gone, no matter how much snow might fall when weather patterns change in early spring. Ticks and mosquitoes are already out with abundance at many locations in the state. But one thing that excites many of us is the “official” start to spring when the wildflowers of the lowlands begin their annual show. This year trees flowered many weeks early, desert wildflowers of the Columbia Basin were beginning to bloom by mid-March, and any day now one of the most beautiful wildflowers of our neighborhood should start to wake up: the western trillium!

While other wildflowers bloom earlier (such as skunk cabbage and palmate coltsfoot) the western trillium (Trillium ovatum) is close behind. It also is common to see it going by the name “western wake-robin” since it is one of the earlier species to bloom. I know many people who feel that spring really is here once they see their first one blooming along a local trail or on their property! We are very fortunate to have numerous places on our property where they grow much to our enjoyment. However, if you are not this lucky there are many close-by locations you are sure to see them now. Walk the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and they will be emerging along the moist hillsides and streams that you find in the semi-shaded regions. Most trails within the Tiger Mountain State Forest as well as the easy stroll to Twin Falls out east of North Bend all offer prime viewing. Likewise, they often are seen in large quantities on most semi-shaded moist slope along any hiking trail in the lower elevations of the Cascades. Very often you will see them growing along with ferns, salal, and yellow violets (which bloom at essentially the same time). You can certainly see where this flower got its name from by taking a closer look at the plant. Most of the structure of the trillium, such as leaves, pedals, flower parts, etc…) are exactly three in number. If not, they are in multiples of three. What a perfectly designed native flower! The flower grows from the top of a very sturdy stalk which rises out of the ground from the rhizome, which is the “storage root” of the plant.

I highly recommend if you already have a location within your garden which is landscaped as a native garden to consider adding the western trillium to the mix! It is available in fall as rhizomes from a number of native plant growers in the Pacific Northwest. But whether you have them in your yard or not be sure to try and sneak a peek at this triumphant signaling of “The Official Start of Spring”!

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