As we get through the end of February and are looking forward to warmer months such as April and May, be sure to keep an eye out for one of my favorite flowers: the trillium. Just don’t try to fill your vase – it’s illegal to pick them! Endangered in most of North America, these fragile plants always felt like my little secret growing up.
Living near Stony Brook State Park, these white, three-petaled buds were actually abundant in the woods around my old house. In fact, one of the hills (dubbed Dinosaur Hill during my brilliantly creative youth because of the humps that looked like a giant beast’s back) would suddenly be covered in a carpet of trillium.
I learned the hard way I wasn’t supposed to pick them. Back in primary school, I have a very vivid memory of being so proud of the vast array of wildflowers I brought back to my grandma, with a single trillium as the star of the bouquet. One quick gasp and a grateful but sincere announcement about my error and I thought for sure the cops were coming after me. Hadn’t even made it to Ellis B. Hyde Elementary yet and my future would be shut down behind bars, for sure.
However, a few days passed and the FBI did not come for me. I never plucked a bloom again, though I would end up carefully noting their arrival every year after. It was an admittedly strange concept that a plant could be endangered like a panda or a snow leopard. These flowers became an alien anomaly to me.
Once I was old enough to do some research and sate my curiosity, I found out a little bit more. Turns out, the trillium is endangered because as soon as any part of the plant is damaged, the whole plant dies. You pluck a petal, the stem’s a goner. This makes is incredibly hard for the perennial flower to reproduce.
And while ignorant children can be told to let the flower live and “appreciate it where it is,” the hungry herbivores in the area aren’t quite so easily convinced. With the growing deer populations, the trillium numbers are declining with or without help from human foragers.
Yet, there is ultimately truth in finding beauty without needing to carry it home. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some hidden New York gems, or rather, foliage, tread lightly and take nothing but pictures.
By Halie Solea