It is almost April and finally Spring. Winter's gray-brown, threadbare blanket of leaves on the forest floor is rapidly being replaced by an explosion of color. Each day brings a new flower species—bloodroot, spring beauty, trout lily, and Dutchman's breeches—unfurling their leaves toward the sun in the race for sunlight before the trees leaf out. Perhaps the most elegant bloomers of the Illinois' woods are the trilliums Illinois has 9 species of trilliums which are easily recognized as their flower parts are arranged in groups of threes—3 petals, 3 sepals and 3 leaves. When the trilliums are in full bloom it is an indisputable sign that winter is over and spring has arrived!
The first to bloom is the snow trillium, poking through a protective blanket of leaves in mid-March. Sometimes they must push through a layer of heavy, wet snow to reach the warming rays of sunshine. Only 4 inches high and pure white in color, they grow in isolated communities in hilly woods and along limestone cliffs.
Prairie trillium is the most common woodland trillium, occurring in every county in the state. Its green leaves are strongly mottled with brown; the red flower is sessile. In the late afternoon sun the three blood-red petals resemble a candle, lighting the patches of darkening shadows.
For those lucky enough to find a rich, undisturbed woods, they are rewarded with the gleam of the large white blossoms of the Great White Trillium—the largest of Illinois’ trilliums. The waxy white flowers change color as they grow older, going from snowy white, through pink, to deep purple-pink before the petals wither.