Flora & Fauna

Trillium is Toxic

A giant wake robin prepares to bloom near the Klamath River.

A Giant Wake Robin prepares to bloom near the Klamath River.

Have you ever seen this stunning flower in the redwood forest? It is a Giant Wake Robin, or Trillium chloropetalum, and I recently saw it near the Klamath River. The petals range from purple to red to orange and sometime appear greenish, the reason the species is namedchloropetalum or “green petal”.  It is known for its three large broad leaves that together form a large triangle.

It is closely related to the Western Wake RobinTrillium ovatum, which is also found in the coast redwood forest. Both of these plants have toxic underground stems and cause vomiting if eaten, so don’t toss them into your next foraged salad!

A pair of Western wake robins stun in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

A pair of Western Wake Robins stun in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

How to best tell these two species apart? The flower of the Giant Wake Robin grows directly from the stem where the leaves also connect. In contrast, the Western Wake Robin’s flower is elevated up on a portion of stem above the leaves. Did you know that the stem that holds up a flower in any plant is called a peduncle? I love this word…just further evidence that my nerdy botanical tendencies are showing.

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