Tag Archives: sweet Betsy trillium

Weather & Wildflowers

The Upstate was plagued in 2016 with spring windstorms, summer drought, and an extended hot and dry autumn. Unfortunately, it looks like 2017 might prove equally unkind. A mild January and warm February stimulated an early spring that was squelched in March by the return of winter.  In the past week we’ve seen a low of 23 F (-5 C) and a high of 86 F (30 C), a difference of 63 degrees in just a few days. Then, on Tuesday evening, mighty thunderstorms swept across our region, pelting some areas with 2 inches of hail and others with nearly 4 inches of rain.

So, in my shady garden, where spring is the main event, the azaleas droop with brown flowers and there will be no blooms on the bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla)  this year. (Sigh.)

Thank goodness there is joy to be found in the woodland garden, where a group of “rescued” sweet Betsy trilliums (T. cunneatum) are thriving.

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Sweet Betsy trillium (T. cunneatum) moved from a nearby area.

Moved just 2 years ago from a property being bulldozed for construction,  the plants are already beginning to spread. Trilliums reproduce vegetatively from small rhizome offshoots, as well as by seeds. When seeds mature, they attract ants and yellow jackets to a lipid-rich food body (elaiosome) attached to their seed coat. Ants move the seeds short distances and yellow jackets disperse them further afield.

Here is another happy surprise.

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More Sweet Betsy.

This naturally occurring patch of sweet Betsy has more than doubled in size since 2011. In fact, this group of trilliums is the very first I found here, surviving under a cloak of English ivy, which spurred our determination to clear invasive plants and reestablish natives.  Six years ago there were 18 flowers. When this photo was taken a few days ago, I counted 38!

Typically, the flowers of bloodroot are finished by now, but not this year.

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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot is one of the most cherished signs of early spring.  The flowers, partially encircled by a single unfolding leaf, appear well before the trees leaf out.  Can you see the pollen on the lower petals?  Pollen eating bees and flies are attracted to the nectarless flowers, but if cross-pollination doesn’t occur within 3-4 days, then the anthers bend toward the stigma and shower it with pollen.

Look what else is waking.

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Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Burned by frost, but with a bloom in the making.  Thank goodness all parts of this plant, except its fleshy fruit, are highly poisonous.  The local deer family, a doe with twin yearlings, was back for a browse yesterday.

In the garden, we can’t predict what tomorrow might bring…but fingers crossed for more good things ahead.

 

 

 

 

Trillium by Seed

With garden travel and GFWC meetings claiming nearly all of my time in the past month, it’s been a good while since I’ve been able to write for pleasure.  This week, with a family wedding within sight, is no exception, but something happened yesterday I can’t wait to tell you about.

Despite our recent hot and dry weather, it occurred to me that the terrestrial orchids might be flowering in the woodland, so I headed towards the river to look. I didn’t find any orchid blooms, but I did notice that many of the Little Sweet Betsy Trilliums (T. cuneatum) are dying back.  When I bent down to examine one, I reached out and touched the large, burgundy seedpod that had formed at the tip of the stalk, and the pod separated from the plant.  In fact, it easily squished between my fingers like an overripe banana.

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Trillium cuneatum dying back as they typically do in July, including a seedpod that squished between my fingers and a second plant with an intact pod.

I had never paid any attention to trillium seedpods in the past. What an amazing discovery!  I could see the pod was filled with 60 or more seeds, each about the size of a bb with a large elaiosome to one side.  An elaiosome is a lipid-rich structure eaten by ants that entices the insects to gather the seeds and move them away from the parent plant, aiding the germination and spread of the species.

What a bonanza! Dreams of thousands of tiny trilliums instantly popped into my head.  Sadly, the excitement lasted roughly 10 minutes—the time it took me to get back to the house, google “trillium grown from seed,” and read it takes nearly two years for seedlings to sprout.  This fun, I’m afraid, will have to wait until retirement, which is six (or more) years away.

I found a fabulous article about the process, however, on the Mt. Cuba Center website. Mt. Cuba is a botanical garden in Delaware (50 acres of display gardens and 500 acres of natural lands) devoted to native plants and ecosystems.  The fascinating piece on growing trillium from seed, written by William Cullina, Director of Horticulture at the Coastal Botanical Garden of Maine and previous Director of Horticultural Research for the New England Wildflower Society in Massachusetts, can be read here.

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A closer look at the trillium seed, each with a large elaisome.

While I will not be growing trilliums from seed anytime soon, I plan to take Cullina’s advice to collect seeds and plant them in the woodland garden where I want to establish new colonies. Plus, I’m super excited to have this new info and eye-opening experience with one of my favorite plants.

Weekend Wildlife (and flowers too)

There hasn’t been much time for gardening or blogging recently, but I stole a few hours this weekend to rescue and transplant trilliums, rejuvenate a container, and simply enjoy the spring garden.

Friday provided a quick look at one of the resident red-shouldered hawks that live along the Reedy River.  I barely managed to grab my camera for a handful of photos before it saw me at the window and leapt from its perch in a black walnut tree.

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Red-shouldered hawk

Though similar, this bird of prey is smaller than the red-tailed hawk and is easy to identify by its black tail with narrow white bands.

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On Saturday, while moving Sweet Betsy trilliums (T. cuneatum) from a soon-to-be utilized city easement at the bottom of our property, I came across a small worm snake (Carphophis ameonus) in the leaf litter.  It was tiny, but not shy about its displeasure, which it expressed with non-stop writhing and, once, by biting my glove.

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Worm snake

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Notice the pink underbelly, which you can just see in the neck region.

I see these little snakes, which grow just a foot in length, in the garden quite often and they always make me smile.  I’m a bit worried I haven’t seen any black snakes yet, but perhaps it’s still a bit early.

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Trillium cuneatum

Most of the trilliums were moved with as much soil around their roots as possible, but I shook these free so you could get a look at their rhizomes.  The smaller, which lost its foliage in digging, was positioned against the larger plant.

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Common five-lined skink

Later, while pulling violas from a container, I unearthed a sleeping five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus).  This quick-footed creature is impossible to catch when fully awake, so I was lucky to hold it for a photo.  Minutes later I saw it had already found a friend and was cavorting in the rock wall, so no harm done.

Finally, here a few favorite blooms to brighten your day.  I hope you’re enjoying a spring as beautiful as the one we are having here!

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Tulips on the front stoop

 

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Spanish bluebells

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And mayapples (Podophyllum) in the woodland, just beginning to flower

 

 

 

 

A Garden Place (Hortitopia)

On Saturday, I had the good fortune to hike with the Greenville Natural History Association, by invitation of Bill Robertson, an acclaimed Upstate nature photographer.   I was a bit worried about the expedition to Chestnut Ridge, especially after I saw the elevation profile.

Elevation profile of Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Elevation profile of Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Bill said he was only hiking the first mile, however, and I really should come along.   I’ve been eager to hike with Bill, who’s very generous with his knowledge and encouragement, and decided to plunge in.  Once I met up with the group at the car-pooling location on Saturday, I noted I was younger than most and was optimistic I could hold my own on the trail.

On the ride to the Heritage Preserve, I met and got to know Ian and Jane, members of the Association and frequent hikers.  I later learned Ian routinely hikes 10 miles several times each week and is an excellent photographer, as well as a photography teacher for OLLI at Furman University.

The early blooms on Chestnut Ridge are mostly the same as those in my woodland garden, primarily sweet Betsy trillium (T. cuneatum) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), but it was instructive to watch the process of the photographers in the group, who true to Bill’s word, pulled up at the first area of native wildflowers while the rest of the hikers continued on towards the Pacolet River.

I took a few pics with my new camera, a Nikon D7100 which is well beyond my grasp of understanding.  On this occasion, however, I knew time was better spent watching Bill and Ian, who were taking macro shots using a tripod and diffuser.

Bill (holding diffuser) and Ian working on macro image of bloodroot

Bill (holding diffuser) and Ian working on macro image of bloodroot

Bill's bloodroot

Bill’s photograph, shown here, uses the stamens of the second flower to create a golden glow around the foreground bloom.

After a while, Ian decided to hike to the river to have lunch with Jane and, foolish in my new-found confidence, I invited myself to go with him to rejoin the group.  As soon as we topped Squirrel Mountain and began the steep decent to the river, I had serious misgivings because I knew the return trip could well get the best of me.

I love hikes that have a treat at the terminus and the Pacolet River didn’t disappoint.  Though the waterway is small, it is located in a deep valley gorge and offers a sandy bank at the river crossing that is perfect for a picnic.  When we arrived, the group was just dusting themselves off for the return hike, so Ian and I quickly ate a few bites.  Lynne, the hike leader, stayed behind to “sweep” and I was much relieved to have a second encourager as we watched the group quickly disappear up the trail.

Pacolet River

Pacolet River

On the return, as I usually do when I’m in over my head, I just put my head down and pressed the gas.  Though I was huffing and puffing, our small group was about halfway up Squirrel Mountain when Lynne spied a garter snake writhing beside the path.  Closer inspection showed the snake had snared a Southern Appalachian salamander (Plethodontid teyahalee) and we watched as the snake slowly worked its way from the amphibian’s mid-section down to the tail so it could turn its prey and devour it.

Common garter snake, about 18-inches long, with Southern Appalachian salamander

Common garter snake, about 18-inches long, with Southern Appalachian salamander

Garter snake devours its prey

Garter snake devours its prey

Needless to say, we thought this would be the trill of the trip, but we were surprised a second time only steps beyond the summit, when I discovered a Luna moth (Actias luna), just emerged from its chrysalis and drying in the warm sunshine.

Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth, drying its wings

Luna moth, drying its wings

If you look closely, the moth can be distinguished as a male by its antennae, which are larger and wider than those of the female.  Though not rare, the Luna is seldom found because its life is brief.  The adult doesn’t have a mouth or eat because its single purpose is to mate, and thus it only survives about a week.

Stopping along the way to photograph the snake and moth allowed me to catch my breath.  The return trip was strenuous, but luckily and with many thanks to Ian and Lynne, I made it back to the start of the trail without too much discomfort or embarrassment.

The name of this blog, Hortitopia, is a word (horti + topia = garden + place) made to describe, in part, the amazing region where I live.  I’m grateful every day to enjoy its unique and wonderful species diversity.  To learn more about the Upstate,  read my first blog post here.

A clump of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) flourishing among a large patch of  spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

A clump of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) flourishing among a large patch of spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.  ~ William Shakespeare

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day–April 15, 2014

For Upstate gardeners, and others in our region, it appears to be a matter of enjoying spring blooms while we can, as weather experts are predicting a hard freeze for tonight. Fingers crossed that the cloud cover moves out later than expected, thus improving conditions.

On this wet and windy day, here’s some of the best of what’s blooming in the ornamental garden…

Front garden including white & pink dogwood trees, azaleas, Spanish bluebells, Lenten roses, Japanese maple, and  Chocolate Chip ajuga.

Front garden including white & pink dogwood trees, azaleas, Spanish bluebells, Lenten roses, Japanese maple, and Chocolate Chip ajuga.

Front garden from opposite direction.

Front garden from opposite direction.

Container gardens on front stoop.

Container gardens on front stoop.

Rainbow euphorbia

Rainbow euphorbia

Variegated Solomon's seal

Variegated Solomon’s seal

Iris cristata

Iris cristata

Epimedium grandiflorum

Epimedium grandiflorum


And in the woodland garden…

Sweet Betsy trillium

Sweet Betsy trillium

Wild blue phlox

Wild blue phlox

Carolina silverbell

Carolina silverbell

Sweetshrub

Sweetshrub


If you have time to visit other gardens around the world, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the host of GBBD.

My Garden this Weekend–April 6, 2014

I’ve had two days in the garden in the past week and things are showing enough improvement to give an update. On Wednesday I transplanted roughly 3 dozen Sweet Betsy trilliums from the development site off Pleasantburg Drive (about a city block from my back garden through the woods). I also finally emptied the last plants from the holding area. Nearly all went in the woodland, with those needing the most sun being planted closest to the river or in little pockets of light, here and there.

Saturday was devine, with temps in the 70s and plenty of sun. Tim helped me move another dozen or so trilliums plus a few Christmas ferns and then I marked all the native plants (130+) in the woodland with new orange flags. Marking the plants is important, at least for now, so I don’t loose track of them when they’re dormant. Finally, I worked on pulling the little bits of ivy that show up in spring and other small tasks that always pile up but seldom get done.

Woodland garden with flags marking native plants.

Woodland garden with flags marking native plants.

Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

The Carolina silverbell are in full flower, with their white hoop skirt-like blooms hanging in clusters below the braches. I counted roughly a dozen types of pollinators, mostly bees, among the blooms.

Bumble bee among the blooms of Carolina silverbell.

Bumble bee among the blooms of Carolina silverbell.

The second most exciting thing to happen in the woodland is the emergence of the mayapples. You can tell right from the get-go if the plant will have a bloom or not, as the shoot comes up with the flower bud at its tip.

Mayapple shoots, one with flower bud and one without.

Mayapple shoots, one with flower bud and one without.

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

In just a few days the leaves take on their umbrella shape and begin to rise above the bloom. In time, the flowers produce a fleshy, egg-shaped fruit that is edible when ripe, but all other parts of the mayapple are highly poisonous to humans and most other animals.

Flower buds on the sweet shrubs are roughly the size of an English pea. The honey-scented blooms of Fothergilla are beginning to form, and just above the retaining wall, the serviceberry are flowering. Best of all, I caught sight of a giant turtle in the river.

Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Fothergilla major

Fothergilla major

Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)

Turtle!

Turtle!

And here are a few signs of spring in the front garden.

White dogwood (Cornus florida) and azaleas.

White dogwood (Cornus florida) and azaleas.

Fullmoon Japanese maple (Acer japonicum)

Fullmoon Japanese maple (Acer japonicum)

Blue starflower (Ipheion uniflorum)

Blue starflower (Ipheion uniflorum)

Pink dogwood (Cornus florida rubra)

Pink dogwood (Cornus florida rubra)