[Trillium-l] North American Trillium Hybrids

Richard Vagner richelles33 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 25 21:54:32 CET 2011

25 years ago, as I was finishing up part of the TMI Modifications, I had
been actively visiting nuclear plants from Georgia to New England across to
Illinois and south into Texas and across to Alabama from 1979 to about 1986.
I had the chance during those years to visit hundreds of sites where
Trillium grandiflorum was growing during it's blooming season. The thing I
recall most about those years was the uniformity of T. grandiflorum in both
flowers and plant structure. This was in sharp contrast to the pedicellate
Trilliums, mostly those in the erectum complex, which had wide ranging
variation in both flowers and plant morphology. At that time I wasn't much
interested in the sessiles but I do recall seeing many of them during that
time frame. Much of the work I was involved in was taking place at night to
avoid problems with the day shifts at the plants so that left a lot of time
to visit the locally available Trilliums. I also was able to visit many
sites in Canada where T. grandiflorum was also available from Illinois to
New England.

This gives me the impression that Trillium grandiflorum is further along the
evolutionary trail as opposed to the erectum complex which appears to me to
be actively evolving because of the wide variability I saw across the same
portion of North America. My observations were frequently based on site
locations provided by local Botany Departments and identifications were
frequently from those institutions. It was at that time I was first exposed
to the number of names that had been given to the Trilliums of Eastern North
America. Since I was interested in Taxonomy knowing the names was an
essential part of the observations.

Many times when I arrived at a site that had been pointed out as having more
than one species growing there I found the purported different species to be
smaller or larger forms of something else. Over the past fifty or so years
that I have been able to visit Trilliums in the wild the variation I have
seen gives me some pause when naming those populations. I'll use a metaphor
which I've used previously. We're riding a train through evolutionary
history and our observations are but a daily slice of the evolution going on
around us. Each day gives us a different slice to consider but our
propensity to want to put everything into a pigeonhole where it always fits
leads us to ignoring the changes that are occurring. I find I'm coming down
on the side that many of the names we're trying to utilize are slippery and
wont stay where we think they should. Also the practice of selecting one
plant as the representative of the taxon and excluding the variation gives
us problems in not being able to account for the cline from one species to
another over distance, time of the rate of evolution.
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