White Trillium

Mike Oxley

Cornwall Ontario, Canada

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White Trillium 
_Trillium grandiflorum_
Guindon Park, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
May 7, 2011

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been able to wander the trails at Guindon Park. They’ve been closed due to the flooding resulting from all the rain we’ve had recently, and I’m not sure when they’ll be reopening because, big surprise, there has been even more rain and more forecast, still. I’m sure that once they are accessible again, I’ll be met by a huge black cloud of blood- starved mosquitos as the weather conditions have been perfect for these winged delights. It should be noted that this huge black cloud has developed a taste for insect repellant, too, if last year’s experiences are anything to go by. A shot of AB negative with an Muskol chaser. My own personal cloud of mosquitos (MOPCOM), back with a vengeance. Oh, well. The sacrifices we make for our art.

With thanks to www.naturesherbal.com

Other Names

Bath-flower, Birth-root, Great White Trillium, Ground lily, Large-flower Wakerobin, Large-flowered Trillium, Trillium, White Trillium, Large White Trillium, Wood Lily, Indian shamrock


Perennial herb native to Eastern N. America and Canada, Maine to Ontario, south to Georgia and Arkansas. Found growing in rich woods and thickets, usually on limestone.


Trillium is fairly easy to grow, it prefers a deep well-drained woodland or humus-rich soil in a shady position that remains moist in the summer. Transplants from the wild are best, but can be propagated by seed though it may take 2 years to germinate and another two years to bloom. Trillium is a very ornamental and long-lived plant. It is said to be a polymorphic species and is very subject to mutation. The spring flowers symbolizes the early arrival of robins- ‘wake-robin’. Trillium grows from a short thick root or rhizome. The long stem is tinged with red, round and smooth, unbranched, growing up to 2 feet high. Atop the stem there is a whorl of 3 broadly ovate, short petiole, wavy-edged and dark green leaves. This whorl of leaves can reach as much as 10 to 12 inches in diameter. The flower perches upright above the leaves on a 2 to 3 inch petiole or small stem, it is bright white at first turning pink to red with age, it has 3 petals and 3 green sepals, forming a star shape and can grow 3 to 4 inches in diameter. The flowers bloom in April to May. Gather young edible leaves in early spring, as soon as they emerge for use as a pot herb. Gather roots in summer after flowers fade, dry for later herb use.


White Trillium is edible and medicinal, it has a long history of use by Native Americans. The root is medicinal as an abortifacient, antiseptic, antispasmodic, diuretic, emmenagogue, and ophthalmic. The roots, fresh or dry, may be boiled in milk and used for diarrhea and dysentery. The raw root is grated and applied as a poultice to the eye in order to reduce swelling, or on aching rheumatic joints. The leaves were boiled in lard and applied to ulcers as a poultice and to prevent gangrene. An infusion of the root is used in the treatment of cramps and a common name for the plant, ‘birthroot’, originated from its use to promote menstruation. A decoction of the root bark can be used as drops in treating earache. Constituents found in the volatile and fixed oils are, tannic acid, saponin, a glucoside resembling convallamarin, sulphuric acid and potassium dichromate, gum, resin, and starch.


Used as abortifacients or to facilitate childbirth and to treat other female problems by the women of many Native American tribes. Trillium root was considered to be a sacred female herb and they only spoke of it to their medicine women.

Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28 to 300 at 300 mm, circular polarizer
iso 100, spot metered, F6.3, 1/160 second

Artwork Comments

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