Mother nature celebrates the trinity
This week my wife and I and were walking the yard with our consummate caretaker, Trapper James, when we joyfully noticed that our field of trillium had started to come up. As always, Mother Nature was right on time, and trillium were a wonderful reminder that Easter week was nigh.
“How appropriate,” my wife said. “You should write about trillium in your next column.” Being a dutiful husband, I put on hold my follow-up to birding — ‘Making peace with the squirrels’ — and began my research on trillium.
One click on Google revealed that the word trillium has become a favorite name of corporations here in North Carolina. There is a Trillium private residential, lake and golf community near Cashiers — where they no-doubt plowed over a few trillium plants during development. There is a Trillium Family Medicine practice in Asheville, as well as a builder by the name of Trillium Properties.
And since April is North Carolina Beer Month, it’s important to note that there is even a Trillium Brewery in Boston.
All of these names are certainly a tribute to trillium’s popularity, but a mere distraction from the simple beauty of this incredible flower.
Did you know? Trilliums are a fairly common perennial flowering plant, native to North America and Asia. Trilliums are members of the lily family, and there are more than 40 known species. The most common species are the snow-white trilliums that stand out so boldly on the woodland floor.
Trilliums — also known as birthroot and birthwort — were used by Native Americans and early settlers of Appalachia as a uterine stimulant. Bitter tonics made from trilliums were also used to control bleeding and diarrhea.
(There you go — I finally got to use the word ‘diarrhea’ in a column.)
Trillium plants spread through rhizomes, and that is part of the reason some species are now threatened or endangered. Picking any part of a trillium plant — especially the flower — can kill the plant, even if the underground rhizome is not disturbed.
Over the years, so many people have enjoyed trilliums that they have, literally, “loved them to death.”
For that reason, picking trilliums is illegal in Michigan, Minnesota and New York.
Trilliums are not yet protected in North Carolina, but if you see trilliums in your yard or on a nature hike, admire the beautiful flowers and otherwise leave the trilliums alone.
It takes a trillium rhizome six years to produce its first flower. Pick that flower, and the plant will most likely die.
There is another reason to respect and admire trilliums — their widely-used name and religious significance as the ‘trinity flower.’
In the trilliums, Mother Nature and The Creator show us that one beautiful flower exists in three parts. Perhaps this can help us understand the mystery God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Reflect on the trilliums this week, and enjoy the renewal of spring all around us.
As the Song of Solomon beautifully tells us:
“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.”