Backyard Reflections / A Reflection on Time and Trillium



A Reflection on Time and Trillium

With the end of May in a few days, I feel nostalgia. This month is both elusive and dramatic – bare trees in lime green, and now lilacs so heavily laden with blossoms that some bow as if in prayer. Wood frogs and thugs bring night and the first toads hop around my overgrown flower garden; in the forests, I surprise them by looking closely at the little flowers. Gray tree frogs trill at dusk. Violets of all hues adorn the land outside my door with sturdy dandelions, forget-me-nots, deep blue Ajuga rafts, delicate Solomon’s seal bells, mayapple umbrellas, false Solomon’s seal, wild columbine and golden celandine, all nestled in long grass and moss. There is no mowing here!

On my wooded trails, the borages and mayflowers of Canada are now so thick that I’m afraid to step on a single one, as if one foot could destroy everything. At the edge of the stream, white trilliums bloom, painted and purple, plant seeds, while bloodroots, strawberry tree trumpets and delicate anemones have turned into leafy memory. Ostriches and hay ferns unfurl, creeping blue phlox and lady’s rocket bud or bloom; pink and white slippers beckon here and in the woods. Lupins have arrows. June is in the air.

I spent the whole month with one foot here at home and one in the deep forests, the ones that were able to thrive on their own.

This year I promised myself to do nothing except watching and listening to birds and spending my time in the woods with wildflowers. I’ve been busier than I could have ever imagined! I feel a deep pleasure when each of my “regular” summer birds return and prepare for nesting. In the past week alone, I’ve identified 16 migratory warblers, spent hours in the field listening to migratory birds, checking sources for accuracy, and was captivated by Phoebe setting up the household on a ledge precarious above my front door. There’s so much to do, it feels like I’m living with Winnie the Pooh at Pooh Corner. No place for the practical aspects!

In the forest, I scan the ground for new arrivals while keeping an eye out for slippers and blue bead lilies that often grow close together. Giant yellow bumblebees are a frequent sight always buzzing close to the ground because they know where the fleeting nectar is! The twisted stem with its tiny pink bells appeared two days ago on one of my regular trails. My favorite woodland fern is sending up new shoots; The Christmas fern will remain forest green until mid-winter. Frilled swords extend from a central rosette that hides rhizomes under a litter of moist, fragrant leaves. Here too, carpets of Mayflower and Canadian borage bloom in abundance. None of these delicate beings can stand being stepped on, so you have to stay on a track. The key to the abundance of wildflowers is, of course, a healthy, diverse forest and light foot traffic. The forests I visit are thick with hemlock, pine, oak, ash, birch, and maple, to name a few. This rich diversity creates rich, spongy soil, provides wildflowers with protection from the sun and, before leafing out, still provides enough light for spring ephemera to begin blooming.

Reflecting on this elusive and magical month, I am struck by how I experience time. In a sense, I have been so present to each day/moment that I may experience it as timeless; on the other hand, as June approaches, I feel the harrowing rapid passage of time. As I breathe in the volatile compounds called terpenes, released by evergreens, I wonder if the trees experience this subtle shift as a celebration.

If the weather cooperates and heat waves don’t shrivel up the tender blooms, some trilliums will still bloom in June, if you know where to look for them. In a healthy forest, these earth stars with three pearly white petals, some inked pink, often appear in large clumps, surrounded by many young, yet to bloom. They are everywhere! Although the purple trillium has set seeds, others are bright with bright faces. The large white trillium surprises the discerning eye. I like that there are exceptions to stealing instants!

There are 39 species of trillium in the United States, and all belong to the Liliaceae family. They are native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. Trillium has an extremely long lifespan if left undisturbed (twenty-five years).

Like most wildflowers, Trillium is endangered due to machine traffic, logging and habitat loss. Although their tendency is to spread quite naturally through rhizomes, without protected forests, or small patches of woodland like mine, where nature is allowed to make its own decisions, the trillium simply dies out. Trillium seeds are also spread by ants. After flowering, an oval capsule is formed which eventually develops into a fruit. The ants take the fruits to their nest where they eat them and add the seeds to their trash, which then becomes a rich medium for the future germination of the trillium!

Here, I notice that the first trillium comes out of the ground on Earth Day, every year. Each spring I have a few more plants and more flowers, although it will take years for the younger ones to bloom. In the forests I visit, emergence occurs a little later. I’m tuned in to how all the mayflies unfold, but the trillium starts wildflower season and often ends it. Although they are beautiful to look at, picking the trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing food for the following year, killing the plant and ensuring that none will grow. in its place.

In pre-Christian European lore, the presence of three-lobed trillium-like flowers signified the emergence of the earth goddess in her most ethereal form, a legend that seems to have at its basis the literal greening of spring.


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