Trillium: A Lesson from the Trail

This trail runs along a short arm of the Glencoe Swale watershed. It’s a place wildlife calls home… Jackson Woods Nature Reserve provides habitat for a rich variety of plant and animal species. However, the Reserve trail is also a place frequented by people who live in the suburban neighborhoods nearby.

Human visitors, pay attention, there is a lesson you must learn– It lies here on the trail… in a wilted bouquet.

One plant species in this pile should be removed and discouraged from growing in the forest- it is an invasive plant. The other plant species must remain undisturbed and allowed to propagate and flourish in the forest- it is a native plant.

Can you tell?  Which plant is the invasive? Which is the native?

The invasive has thick, dark green leaves that are spiny and prickly along the edge. The bright red berries are toxic to humans. Did you guess? Yes, it’s English Holly. A lesson for another time.

Let’s focus on the native plant. It has soft green, smooth-edged leaves that are usually arranged in whorls of three (although there can be up to 5). Also arranged in a set of three are the white, triangular-shaped petals. Did you guess? Yes, it’s Western Trillium.

Here’s where we come to our lesson from the trail…

Walk the Jackson Woods path in early spring to spot these enchanting blossoms. They bloom just as American Robins begin to appear in the area, giving rise to an alternative common name for this plant- “Wake-robin”. Blossoms occur between March and May.

The way these beautiful flowers rise above the ground-cover makes them seem to beckon,

“Pick me! Pick me!”

Resist that call… if you must take a Trillium with you, do so by taking photographs.

They do make lovely subjects-

This is why you must resist picking Trillium-

Picking parts off a trillium… including flowers or leaves… most often results in killing the whole plant. Trillium grow from rhizomes- horizontal underground stems that put out lateral shoots and roots from nodes. Even if the rhizome is undisturbed, the Trillium plant is still likely to perish.

In Oregon it is illegal to pick trillium.

Trillium: A lesson from the trail

Learn from someone else’s mistake.

This wilted bouquet represents the death of almost two dozen, 24, trillium plants. Next year, there will be twenty-four fewer wake-robins along the Jackson School Woods Nature Reserve trail to welcome spring. Twenty-four fewer reasons for hikers along the trail to smile.

Imagine if all travelers in the reserve picked Western Trillium…

How sad it will be if they disappear.

Remember– if you must take a Trillium with you, do so by taking photographs.


  1. This problem has no end, no easy solution. I see. I pick. I toss. Trilliums, smart phones, clothing, candy wrappers, good food, furniture, pets, et cetera, ad nauseum. The world is my oyster (or trillium bouquet). No thought beyond the moment — a pervasive attitude in developed countries. To our own detriment we have forgotten the worth of wild things and wild places. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of even small acts.


    1. Sally, it sounds like we may be kindred spirits when it comes to all the examples you listed. I believe sharing stories to keep the worth of the wild things and wild places from being forgotten is time well spent.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s