[Trillium-l] Microhabitats

Charles Hunter 2csh at bellsouth.net
Mon Jan 19 23:21:03 CET 2015

Struggles with growing western trilliums in the east are more than just
duplicating habitats, unless the composition of the soil is considered part
of duplicating a habitat, and as we all know, specially prepared soil in the
garden has a tendency to revert to local native soil over time. It is not
just western trilliums that are hard to grow in the east. The only western
native azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) is virtually impossible to keep
alive for any length of time in the east as is the west coast native large
leaf evergreen Rhododendron macrophyllum. I think there are more species
that this is true of as well. I think it is not a simple answer. Somebody
needs to do their PhD thesis on this.

Charles Hunter
Smyrna, Georgia USA z7 

-----Original Message-----
From: trillium-l-bounces at science.uu.nl
[mailto:trillium-l-bounces at science.uu.nl] On Behalf Of Robin Graham Bell
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2015 4:32 PM
To: Trillium Enthusiast Discussion List (and other Woodland plants)
Subject: Re: [Trillium-l] Microhabitats

Hi Dan, The topic of microhabitats is a perpetually curly (& fascinating)
one especially for those of us who like seeing plants in the wild as well as
the garden. Often, though, I think that we focus on the obvious one, or the
one that we can measure or control, to the exclusion of all else. Nor do I
think that anyone has it all figured out as critical factors can vary even
for one species depending on the environment. For me, when I try to work out
what is important I try to think of it as hierarchical. If #1 is OK then #2
might be in play & so on thru as many as seem to be significant. Plus, not
all distribution is necessarily the geochemical habitat; pollinators, seed
dispersal mechanisms & competition may all be factors as well. With the
trilliums that I was familiar with, I came to believe that competition was
the most important thing in the eastern hardwood forests. That is what has
pushed them into early spring (hence cool adapted) when there is little
competition from
  other forbs or the canopy. I also suspect that this is the factor that
makes t's generally favor riparian areas as there is more light than deeper
in a forest. In Ithaca I couldn't grow catesbyi or undulatum despite trying
to modify my high pH soil. Unfortunately I was never really sure that pH was
the critical problem. With undulatum there were almost certainly other
factors as well, who knows what was first in the hierarchy? 
	In gardens everyone tries to get the best spot for favored plants
even if we don't really know what the best conditions might be. I recall a
woodlot in Canada where TRGR were all thru it, but by far the most vigorous
plants were those in full sun that had self sown into the bare strip beside
the woodlot. I think most of us would not think that TRGR quite likes full
sun if there's nothing crowding it out & the temps remain cool. 
	I'm hoping that TRGR will make it here even tho summer temps get
above 100 quite regularly but the nights cool down pretty well & humidity is
low. I could have as much trouble with some of the westerners as people in
the south seem to have. Although there are 3 western species growing within
20 miles of me none grow, as far as I can tell, anywhere on the set of hills
I live on. More victims ahead? The one thing that keeps me doing this is
that I have even less idea about the native habitats of a majority of the
plants in my garden, many of them not influenced at all by human
intervention thru breeding or selection. Often all that you get is, likes
shade, or prefers acid soil, likes moisture, etc. So there's hope, as well
as room for surprise. 
	Robin Bell, Medford, OR. zone 7 or so.
On Jan 17, 2015, at 5:28 AM, Miles, Dan wrote:

> To follow the discussion on adaptability of eastern & western American
trilliums on opposite sides of the continent (or the globe):  it would be
interesting to know in what microhabitats they are being cultivated where
they fail or succeed. 
> In the wild, trilliums do not survive a few feet outside the places where
they thrive, due to subtle but critical variations in growing conditions.
Surely the same applies to a significant extent even under careful attention
in gardens. I agree that night temperature may be critical, if not the
primary limiting factor in succeeding with the more fussy species. 
> Some Trillium species and other woodland plants are found only in riparian
zones and are often limited to cool, perpetually moist, north-facing slopes,
even at high elevations. Even in the Smokies, you do not find Trillium
vaseyi, for example, growing on uplands, no matter how rich, even in a
high-rainfall zone. 
> Cool air settles in low areas. On a summer evening, when I walk out of my
hollow and up to my yard on the ridge less than a hundred feet higher, I
notice a dramatic rise in temperature. It can be 20 degrees F cooler at
night along the streams. 
> T. Vaseyi thrives here at 700 ft. Above sea level on cool streambanks, but
I would not expect it to do as well on the north side of my house, no matter
how much attention I may give it there. I would say the same of
kurabayashii. I anxiously await the emergence of this species following
planting some young plants last spring in a cool streamside position. 
> All the failures I hear about western species in the East...have they been
sited in the kind of cool, moist riparian habitats in which they are found
in the wild?  Are they failing simply because of too-high night
temperatures?  I realize that not many gardeners are blessed to have a
streamside position available. I'll keep you all posted. And thank you,
> Dan Miles, Virginia Piedmont, zone 7a
> Sent from my iPhone
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