Each spring, Lemoine Point’s walkers welcome the sight of trilliums along the trails and the beauty of white blooms carpeting the dappled forest floor, the plants thriving in the warming soil before the trees above them leaf out and block the sunlight.
It’s the White Trillium, a true herald of spring.
What we don’t see, however, are the difficulties encountered in the plant’s journey in getting to that point of beauty. It is actually quite a fragile plant in that it must survive a number of potential challenges.
For example, it’s leaves are the favourite food of the White-tailed Deer, and their browsing can prevent it from maturing or threaten its viability, especially if there are a lot of deer … which could explain the reduction in Lemoine Point’s trilliums several years ago.
Aside from that, the plant is a perennial and can live for many years. During the two or three weeks that it is in bloom, it can begin the process of generating new trillium plant growth; that depends on being pollinated, mainly by bumble bees that are quite scarce at that time of year.
If pollination is successful, the fertilized plant then starts to develop seeds, which become ready for dispersal in late summer. And that’s where ants come into the picture. It is they who take those seeds and drag them back into their nests, where they eat an oily outside part and leave the still viable seed in what is an ideal site for it to germinate. After a year or two, the fully germinated seed produces a small rootlet that grows into a rhizome extending above the soil's surface that, over several years, produces first a single leaf and then more. Then, seven or more years after being started by the original blooming plant, it produces a flower. A new flowering trillium! And the start of a new cycle.
Lemoine Point does have one other type of trillium, the Red Trillium, which you can occasionally see among the others where the soil is a bit more acidic … it sports deep maroon coloured blooms.