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Wildflower of the Month: Trillium & marsh marigold

If I had to pick two favorite spring wildflowers, trillium and marsh marigold would be right at the top of the list. I spent Memorial Day weekend near Moose Lake, MN, visiting my parents with my husband. The trillium and marsh marigold were in full bloom and amazingly beautiful!

Trillium grandiflorum, large-flowered trillium

Large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

There are four species of trillium in Minnesota - T. flexipisces, T. cernuum, T. nivale and the largest T. grandiflorum, the large-flowered trillium. According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, it is slow to mature, but can live a long time.

Seeds are spread by ants that take the seeds into their underground homes, eat the outer fleshy seed coat and leave the seeds behind. An herbaceous native perennial, this trillium grows to 8 - 18 inches tall, grows in shady, richly organic woodland soil, and blooms May - June in Minnesota.

My reference book, The Names of Plants (Gledhill, D.) notes that "trillium" refers to groups of three's - the petals, leaves and sepals. Trillium is a protected plant and like all native plants, should never be picked or dug up from the wild.

Caltha palustris, marsh marigold, cowslip

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

Marsh marigolds was one of first wildflowers my mom taught me to recognize as we walked through
the woods in the spring. Like pots of gold, these members of the buttercup family light up the shady wooded edges of streams, ditches, pools, swamps as well as lakes and rivers.

The bright gold flowers grow in clusters on the 8-24 inch tall plants, and bloom in April - May in Minnesota. This flower also has some interesting naming background. According to Stan Tiekla, author of Wildflowers of Minnesota, the genus Caltha is Latin for cup and refers to the flower shape, and "marigold" is from the Anglo-Saxon word "marsh-gold."

The other common name "cowslip" refers to the fact cows would slip on these plants as they tried to drink from streams.

Be a smart - and protective - gardener! Plants should never be picked or dug from the wild. Seek out and purchase these plants from reputable nurseries that cultivate from non-wild stock.

For resources, search the Plant Information Online database managed by the Andersen Horticultural Library:

Do you love wildflowers? 

We're starting something new in Yard and Garden News! Every few weeks during the summer we will feature a different wildflower. In May, we kicked off this new series with one of our favorite spring ephemerals, Virginia Bluebells. Click on the flower name and read more about it!

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator - Horticulture

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