Sunday, May 15, 2016

Forest floor

Spring is the time for spectacular display in under story plants. Britain has its magnificent blue bells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), and our southern neighbours have Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

In Ontario (as well as in Québec and all the northern states that have a climate similar to ours) the best known display is provided by Trillium grandiflorum.

Unfortunately Trillium grandiflorum is a favorite food of the white tail deer. The plant can be rather rare if there are many deer around.

Below is a sample of the millions of trilliums growing in the woodlot of my friend Gwynne.

Trillium grandiflorum

Growing among the Trillium grandiflorum you find a few red Trillium erectum. These are never  numerous. They are not as big as the white one (as the name grandiflorum suggests), and they start blooming before the grandiflorum.

You also notice among the white trillium some light pink ones. These are actually white ones that turn pink as they age.  As well as the pink, you have white ones with green stripes.

Unfortunately these markings are due to a mycoplasma infection which eventually kills the plant. My friend Gwynne encourages visitors to pick these, hoping to reduce the number of infected plants as much as possible.

Trillium grandiflorum is the best known carpeting plant in our forest, but it is not the only one. Erythronium americanum can be just as prolific. The effect is more subdued than the one produced by trilliums, but just as beautiful.

 I end with yet another native plant that carpets the woods at this time of the year. The cover it produces is very thick, but the plant grows in patches instead of blanketing whole areas like the other two. This plant is the May apple.

Podophyllum peltatum
Podophyllum peltatum


  1. It looks lovely. I always find mass woodland planting is far more impressive in real life. Photos never seem to capture the whole 'picture' at least that is the case with carpets of bluebells,

    Sadly our bluebell woods are becoming increasingly rare.

  2. It's funny how deciduous forest has a very active under story. In a coniferous forest there's nothing for an understory.

  3. I love these understorey plants that have to grow, flower and set seed before the leaves on the trees cut out the light.We have quite a few of your Canadian plants over here, I hope they will spread one day like the plants in your photos.

  4. I wish I could grow trilliums. I've tried and tried.

  5. I wonder if the erythroniums and the trilliums are protected as are our bluebells in the UK.
    Trilliums are so slow in my garden. Bet there are loads of mycorhizas in the wood!

  6. I associate White Trilliums with the Appalachian Mountains, not Quebec or Ontario. They are so beautiful! The green markings are actually very striking, too bad they are caused by a deadly disease.

  7. I love this time of year for a walk in the woods, just to see the carpet of flowers.
    Another wildflower that I love is the Hepatica with its broad leaves and small star like flowers. I always look for the pink and blue ones to make a bouquet, but the white seem more common around here.
    As cities expand our woodlands move farther and farther away and thus the carpets of Spring less well known.
    I was taught that the the Trillium were protected in Ontario where it is our provincial flower, but I am not sure that there is really any law protecting them.

  8. Hello Alain, I want to have trillium in the garden, growing under the trees, but when you said that it was the favourite food for white-tailed deer, my heart sank. We probably have a very different type of deer here, but it still leaves me wondering whether trilliums are on their menu too.

  9. Wonderful view of the woods Alain. Trillium smalii is not rare here, it grows in woods and swamps,Podophyllum is very often in gardens, it's a source for special medical treatment. I liked your photos, they remind me our woods.


Thank you for leaving a comment