Newsworthy from our nursery

Nursery propagated Trillium - A Long and Arduous Process

Trillium is one of the most beloved of all spring wildflowers. There are over 50 species occurring worldwide but the greatest number and diversity occur in the southern Appalachians. Their taxonomy is constantly in flux and has challenged many a doctoral student. The challenge to the gardener, is how to get your hands on them. Up until the last 10 or 20 years, they have been dug from the wild by the hundreds of thousands while in full bloom. This is not only a terrible time to transplant them, but this wild harvesting coupled with habitat loss through development, has resulted in concern that species may be threatened in some areas.

So a few crazy individuals and some very small wildflower nurseries started propagating their own plants. Crazy because the process is long, slow, and painstaking. First, flowering plants must be located where it is legally okay to collect seeds. These plants must be marked while in flower, so that 4 months later when the forest floor is covered with thicker summer growth, the non-descript fruiting trillium plants can be found. Seed must be collected before wild critters decide to snack on that particular fruit. Like getting to the perfect tomato the day before the crow does, only trilliums may be out in the back 40, not your back yard garden. Then seeds are cleaned and sown in sterile prepared beds that are then covered with hardware cloth so critters don’t disturb them, and then left for 2 years while seeds germinate and a simple leaf grows. In the third spring, a typical 3-parted leaf will emerge. In 3 or 4 MORE years, after 2 transplantings into larger pots, we may have a flowering plant! So from seed to flowering plant takes 6 to 8 years. But the good thing is that plants grown this way, have healthy, intact roots and have not been ripped up and stressed out.

3 year olds

 7 year olds

Southern red trillium, 10 or more years old

Sweet white trillium, many, many years old

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