Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Challenge #35: Botany Lesson

As a little girl, the wild violets, the trillium, and the columbines were my favorite wildflowers.  Thank heaven that we never really do grow up and away from reverencing the tiny gifts from Nature.

There is a trout stream about six miles from our home.  My family fished at this stream all through the years and still do.  After my daddy died, it was to this trout stream that I went for comfort.  Don't ask me why, but I felt he was there.

Every April I wait for the white trillium (scientific name Trillium Grandiflorum) to pop out of the ground.  They belong to the lily family and are native to Eastern North America, from northern Quebec to the southern parts of the United States, through the Appalachian Mountains into northern Georgia and west to Minnesota and Iowa.

I've done a bit of research on these precious wildflowers, and studies show that their seeds are typically dispersed by ants.  Ant dispersal is the result of an oil-rich body attached to the seed, which is high in lipids and oleic acid.  The oleic acid induces corpse-carrying behavior in ants, causing them to bring the seeds to their nesting sites.  As ants visit several colonies of the plant, they bring genetically variable seeds back to a single location, which later results in a new population of more biologically-fit flowers. 

The white-tailed deer like to eat trillium, will digest the seeds, and later disperse them through defecation.  A deer will eat the larger plants, leaving the shorter ones behind, and this information is used to assess deer density and its effect on plant growth in general.

In 1986, the Ohio General Assembly declared the white trillium to be Ohio's official wildflower.  They selected this little flower, because it grows in all of Ohio's 88 counties.

These little spring flowers symbolize the early arrival of robins, and that's why they're also called "Wake-Robin."  They have a long history of use by the Native Americans for medicinal purposes.  And, they are the provincial flower of Ontario, Canada.

If parents are looking for inexpensive, yet fun, outings with their children, try looking for Trillium.  They're out right now, pretty as they please, they grow close to the ground, and like to have their pictures taken.  That's what I was doing yesterday ....until an old rusty car pulled up, two guys got out with their fishing poles, and let their big mean-looking dog loose.  Here I was walking with the fuzzy one, zooming in on the wildflowers, and then we had to go back to the car because this big dog decided it wanted to take a better look at the fuzzy one.  Unfortunately for us, that ended our walk and our picture taking.