#72 Red Trillium

72 Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

10 May

Trillium erectum, the red trillium, also known as wake robin, is a species of flowering plant in the family Melanthiaceae. The plant takes its common name “wake robin” by analogy with the European robin, which has a red breast heralding spring. Likewise Trillium erectum is a spring ephemeral whose life-cycle is synchronized with that of the forests in which it lives. It is native to the eastern United States and eastern Canada.

Based upon recent genetic research, trillium species have been removed from the family Trilliaceae and placed back in the Liliaceae family. Trilliums are rhizomatous herbs with unbranched stems. Trillium plants produce no true leaves or stems above ground. The “stem” is actually just an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces small, scale-like leaves called cataphylls. These highly modified leaves surround the flowering scape (the above ground plant) as it pushes up through soil in early spring. The leaf-like structures are technically bracts subtending the flower. Despite their morphological origins, the bracts have external and internal structure like that of a leaf, function in photosynthesis, and most authors refer to them as leaves.

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