[Trillium-l] North American Trillium Hybrids

Dennis Weston dennis.weston at sympatico.ca
Tue Jan 25 23:11:23 CET 2011

Here in SW Ontario , Canada there are 1000's of Trillium Erectum and Trillium Grandiflorum growing in the old woodlot that has existed  since before the settlers came in the 1600's . There is the usual variance in bloom and plant size ;  all are easy to relocate to a shady spot in  the immediate yard if I so desire  . There is only one unusual light yellow flowering trillium that I stumbled upon 15 or 20 years ago which seems difficult to identify . The woodlot is indeed a heavenly place in early Spring when the blossoms break open .
D. Weston 
33 miles south of Sarnia , Ont. ; 65 miles west of London , Ont. ; and 30 miles east of Mount Clemens , Michigan 

----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Richard Vagner 
  To: Trillium Enthusiast Discussion List (and other Woodland plants) 
  Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 3:54 PM
  Subject: Re: [Trillium-l] North American Trillium Hybrids

  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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