Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ripening Nodding Trillium Seeds

Our Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum) seeds are ripening, the capsules are turning ruby red. We have about 16 plants in a clump underneath some Gray Dogwood that have spread significantly since we removed the European Buckthorn from the area.

We were fortunate to have a few 'patches' of significant natives when we bought our house, one being underneath some large oak trees where there is a good quantity of Bloodroot and Virginia Waterleaf and this other area with the Nodding Trilliums, Wild Leeks, Red and White Baneberry, and Fern species.
The previous homeowners never converted these patches to lawn or disturbed them too much, other than allowing invasive species to take hold. These plants have been very helpful in determining what native species to add back that grow in association with them.

My posting in June about Ant Dispersed Seeds talked about how Wild Ginger and Bloodroot seeds are dispersed by ants. Trilliums also fall in to that category having the same fleshy elaiosome that ants think are tasty caterpillars. They carry the seeds off to their nest, eat the elaiosome and dispose of the seed in their 'trash'.

What a great relationship between these spring ephemerals and ants to get the seed as far as possible from the parent plant and buried away from animals who would like to eat the seeds.

Nodding trillium is different from many other trilliums because as the common name suggests, the white flower hangs downward underneath the three leaves.

Like other spring flowering natives, the seeds are best sown right away outdoors before they dry out. As I mentioned before, we usually plant these types of seeds in triangular groupings, so when the first leaves emerge (two years after planting), we know not to weed or pull them out.

Nodding Trillium is native to northeastern North America. See map.