The white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) that is Ontario’s provincial flower is not the only trillium in our woods. The red blooms of the wake-robin (Trillium erectum), that bloom slightly before the white trillium, provide a rich display in the spring forest echoing the ruby ribs of this Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis).
These spring ephemerals push up out of the leaf litter on the forest floor and then, when they’re finished blooming and their leaves have taken in enough energy from the sun (before the trees have leafed out and shaded them), they disappear back underground.
This same habitat is home to other spring blooming perennials that, if you look closely, often carpet a wooded hillside.
These dainty yellow blooms rise above a pair of spear-shaped leaves that are mottled in a burgundy brown pattern. They are known as trout lily or dogtooth violet (Erythronium americanum), referencing this mottling or the canine tooth shape of the underground corm.
These little jewels carpet the forest floor for several weeks in the spring and then disappear, much like the trillium. Young plants have just one leaf and no flower; as they mature, they produce a pair of leaves but just one perfect golden bloom with three petals and three sepals (with their distinctive brown backs). Colonies are formed primarily by the corms multiplying, creating little corms (called ‘cormels’) around the base of each mother corm. Think about how crocuses form huge populations when left to their own devices; they also grow from corms.