Birthroot, Red Trillium, digital photo

Red Trillium in the Spring Woods

Birthroot, Red Trillium, digital photo

Birthroot, Red Trillium, digital photo

May is all about wildflowers for me, each day a new flower blooming, everywhere you look, even the dandelions, I love them all.

I took at least a half dozen photos of red trillium on this outing on the Panhandle Trail, but I love this photo of the red trillium for the interesting angle I could get, the repeating shapes, the two-color palette, capturing that uncertain spring light through the early tree canopy. I was lying on my belly on the trail propped up on my elbows so I could just look uphill over the layer of leaves in the little colony of these trillium with occasional flowers hovering over the leaves. It might also be that this red violet/burgundy is one of my favorite colors. In either case I find it a visually interesting composition. I had one framed on the wall because it’s included in my Panhandle Trail exhibit and it caught my eye each time I went past it.

Trilliums are truly a magical harbinger of spring for me. I didn’t meet them until I was an adult exploring a tract of land that had been a farm, the buildings had been demolished and many trees cut and left to lay on the ground. I went picking through for something old to take away to remember what this land had nurtured and found an old handmade wooden stool that I still use on my deck. Among the long straight trunks of trees lying about I found a small colony of glorious white flowers with three petals open wide supported beneath by three wide, shiny green leaves growing from the leaf litter as if in defiance to their fate. I pulled out my wildflower guide book and identified them as large-flowered trillium and knew that when summer came the entire area would be bulldozed and by autumn there would be streets and houses here, and no trace left of the trillium. I dug up three and planted them in my back yard under my own trees. Digging up wildflowers to take home is NOT permitted, and on the two or three instances I’ve done this it was for the same reason: I knew the land and all that grew on it was to be bulldozed and those flowers would be no more. I enjoy bringing my photos home from the woods instead, knowing those flowers and the land is somehow preserved to visit forever.

The trillium grandiflorum in my back yard from that long-ago farm.

The trillium grandiflorum in my back yard from that long-ago farm.

Most spring flowers are small, but trilliums are different. They have many names too that refer to the different perceptions and uses people had for them. “Birth root” refers to the practice among Native Americans to use to help stimulate labor. There is also “wake-robin” because they appear about the time the robins do. This variety is also called red trillium or purple trillium, and, of all things, Stinking Benjamin. You can read this article to find out why, and to find out more about trilliums.

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“Red Trillium” prints are made in archival inks on Epson Silky Photo Paper, Cold Press Digital Giclee Paper or Artist Canvas.

Visit this link in my Photography section to see slideshows of wildflowers from spring and from all seasons.


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