Four Trillium species in a road cut in Greenville County, South Carolina — 2013-04-15

This site was one I had found several years while driving “up the mountain” toward Asheville, North Carolina on U.S. Hwy. 25. I had noticed what looked like white wildflowers in the distance, down the ravine. It is just barely in South Carolina — upper Greenville County, to be specific. I’ve always said that I could spit into North Carolina from this site. It requires parking along and crossing a busy 4-lane highway and a harrowing climb/slide down a steep embankment to a babbling brook. Just across the brook is one of the best selections of Trillium species in one site in South Carolina that I know about. The site is an ultramafic soil type, which provides many of the minerals these species and the other native wildflowrs require.

The five species found here are: Trillium grandiflorum, Trillium cuneatum, Trillium vaseyi, Trilium catesbaei, and an unknown Trillium that is related to Trillium catesbaei.

Here is a shot of a Trillium grandiflorum overlooking the babbling brook:

Trillium beside brook

This is a very peaceful and relaxing place to be even if botanical interests were not in your mind at the time… 😉

The big draw for me at this location are the Trillium grandiflorum or Large-flowered Trillium. They are quite rare in South Carolina, being frequently found much farther north. This is one of the more common Trillium species in parts of the northeast (New England) and even into Canada. Here are some images of Trillium grandiflorum:

And here is one blooming beside a Trillium cuneatum:

Trillium grandiflorum + Trillium cuneatum

Like a few other Trillium species, Trillium grandiflorum flowers start out pure white, then begin turning pink as they age. Eventually, they will become dark pink or light pink with dark pink streaks or blotches:

Trillium grandiflorum with signs of age

The second of the five Trillium species at this site is Trillium cuneatum or Little Sweet Betsy Trillium. This is a very common species, especially in the upstate of South Carolina. Often, it can be found in the thousands, especially at Oconee Station State Historic Site. Click here to go to a previous blog entry that shows a number of images of that species in their habitat.

Here are a few images of some fine Trillium cuneatum plants found at the Hwy. 25 road cut:

In that last image on the right, the plants are huge! The leaf span is about 12 inches (30 cm) from tip to tip!

The third of the five Trillium species at this site is Trillium vaseyi or Vasey’s Trillium. This one is rather large, with the flowers being as big as 3 inches (~7.5 cm) wide. On the day of my visit, they were still in tight bud, but I am including a flower image that I took at this site last year:

Trillium vaseyi in bud

Trillium vaseyi flower

That deep maroon flower with white stamens and heavily textured petals is always a favorite of mine.

The fourth of the five Trillim specimens at this site is Trillium catesbaei or Catesby’s Trillium. This is where it gets interesting. Most of the Catesby’s Trillium at other sites I’ve visited look like the following:

Trillium catesbaei -- normal form

Note the deep pink, recurved petals. Also note that the flower hangs down below the leaves. This is typical of all Catesby’s Trillium that I see at other locations.

At this site, however, many of the Catesby’s Trillium flowers are very light pink or white and they are erect, meaning that they do not hang below the leaves. Here are some examples:

Those last two begin to approach the typical form, but something about them is still not quite right.

Here are a couple of shots of one plant at this site that I would likely call Catesby’s Trillium. The flower has the characteristic flower color and shape, but it does not hang below the leaves:

In a personal correspondence a year or so ago, Dr. Susan Farmer, a noted Trillium expert, indicated that she was studying this strange form of Trillium catesbaei, and she thought it might be a new Trillium species or a new variety of Trillium catesbaei.

There are many other wildflowers at this site. Here are images of some that I saw in bloom:

The first of these is Arisaema triphyllum commonly known as Jack-in-the-pulpit. This is the darker, purple form:

Next, I saw thousands of Viola canadensis or Canada Violet:

Canada violet

Another species that was in abundance is Stellaria pubera or Star Chickweed. It blanked the ground in places:

Finally, there were numerous plants of Dentaria laciniata or Cutleaf Toothwort:

Cutleaf Toothwort

What a wonderful place to botanize! There are many more wildflower species here in season. But today, I was very happy to see all of the Trillium species in bloom.

— Jim


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One Response

  1. A genetic aberration with Catesby’s trillium? Or may a hybrid with another Trill species in the locale.

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