One of New York’s most distinctive and beautiful wildflowers is the White Trillium. Also known as the Large-Flowered Trillium, these beautiful flowers are a delight to see when walking along a streambank on a warm spring day. Along with other trilliums, the White Trillium can be identified by having three large leaves, three flower petals, and three sepals. However, this gorgeous flower also has a number of characteristics that make it an unique member of the woodlands of Western New York.
As mentioned above, size is usually the trait that is first noticed when observing a specimen of White Trillium. The petals are bright white early after blossoming, but may turn pink-ish as the flower ages. Like all trilliums, there are three petals on each flower, and only one flower per plant. There are also three large sepals, each of which sits between the petals. The stigmas and stamens also follow this pattern of triplets, with six stamens and three stigmas being present.
The leaves of the White Trillium are large, being up to six inches long and five inches across. Each plant has three leaves, arranged in a whorl around the stem. These broad leaves sometimes may be the only identifiable part of the plant, as it takes several years for the plant to develop enough to devote energy to grow a flower. Before the plant is mature enough for a flower, the leaves will still be present, producing enough sugars to store for future use. This is one of the reasons why White Trillium should not be disturbed in its habitat, as its reproductive cycle takes a significant amount of time.
These flowers are found in deciduous forests with rich soil, as well as in swamps and along shaded riverbanks. My first encounter with this species was in an exemplary habitat for White Trillium, on a streambank in a rich woodland with the ideal amount of sunlight. With all of the conditions being suitable for this flower, there were actually around a dozen specimens of this species in a small area. This is a good example of how native plants like the White Trillium can actually succeed when the environmental conditions allow them to compete with invasive species.