Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Snow trillium

At this time of year, I love seeing the native plants change almost daily. On the Bill Riley bike trail in Des Moines yesterday, I saw lots of violets, bluebells, spring beauties, toothwort, dogtooth violets, and some buttercups that Bleeding Heartland will cover next Wednesday. In our corner of Windsor Heights we are seeing most of the above, as well as the first Jack-in-the-pulpits, bellwort, sweet William (phlox), and littleleaf buttercups blooming. Buds are developing on May apples, wild geranium, Virginia waterleaf, and even Solomon’s seal. I have trouble identifying birds and insects, but we are seeing a wider variety of both, including a red admiral today. Here’s the latest central Iowa butterfly forecast.

Today, Bleeding Heartland reader Eileen Miller has shared some of her photographs of snow trillium, a beautiful early spring wildflower. I’ve seen these blooming along the Living History Farms woodland trail (between the 1850 farm and the 1900 farm), but I’ve never captured good shots of them. Eileen’s description of this flower is after the jump, along with her pictures.

Snow trillium (Trillium nivale) is a delightful early spring woodland wildflower, that reaches a height of only about 2 to 4 inches at maturity. In Iowa it blooms as early as mid-March, sometimes even coming up through snow–hence its name. Snow trillium is one of our native spring ephemerals, meaning that it emerges, flowers and produces seeds all within the brief period before the trees leaf out and throw shade on the woodland floor.  

Bees and other insects pollinate the flowers, but most reproduction is by vegetative cloning from the fleshy underground stem called a rhizome.

Snow trillium flower petals often turn shades of pink as they fade. Its leaves remain into the summer, continuing to produce food which is stored in the fleshy rhizomes. This store of food makes it possible for the plant to emerge and bloom again early the following spring.

After a long, hard winter, this beautiful little wildflower is a joy to see. Along with other early spring woodland wildflowers, snow trillium plays an important role in maintaining our woodland ecosystems and should be protected wherever found.

Snow trillium flower bud about to open:

Snow trillium budding photo IMG_8623_edited-2_zps7e5af795.jpg

Snow trillium blooming:

Snow trillium blooming photo IMG_1867_edited-2_zps0f778e27.jpg

Snow trillium in full bloom:

Snow trillium flowers photo IMG_9176_edited-3_zpsdb0dbdb3.jpg

Honeybee gathering nectar and pollen from the snow trillium flower:

Snow trillium with bee photo IMG_2004_edited-1_zps154ff134.jpg

Fading petals of the snow trillium turning a shade of pink:

Pink snow trillium flower photo IMG_7524_edited-2_zps5db27cb0.jpg

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