It is the first day of spring and it feels like it. Although in March the Illinois landscape in general still has the grey look of winter, the silver maples are in bloom, bees have found them, willows have a ruddy look, the wind actually has a flavor on the tongue, and the voices of the meadowlarks surely are all one needs to acknowledge the reality of spring. They and the small white snow trilliums on a cool limestone cliff above the river.
Trillium nivale Riddcll.
Early spring Hilly woods, cliffs.
Snow trilliums are one of the first flowers to bloom, hut they usually grow in such high, wild spots that not many folk who follow the progress of spring ever see them when they bloom. For snow trilliums must have hilly woods; lime-tone cliffs are favorite haunts. The little trilliums are scattered some on the cliffs above the Illinois river: in Kickapoo Valley in Peoria county; at Funk's Grove near Bloomington; on a hill near Lake Springfield; at Starved Rock; on the hills along the Mississippi between Hamilton and Nauvoo, all the way north to Galena - trilliums here and there in isolated communities of flowers.
But they are an essential item in the lists of spring.
Snow trilliums seldom grow more than three to six inches high, on smooth, pinkish to green stems. There are three dark green, oblong leaves spreading in a neat triangle at the top of the stem. Extending from the exact center springs a slim flower -talk with one bud. This opens precisely to show three white petal three green sepals, and six pale yellow stamens. That is the snow trillium.
It blooms in March and early April sets seeds, and disappears until the following March. Then again, here and there in Illinois, rare little white trilliums poke up through fallen oak leave on the north sides of rocky hills and show the proper trillium plan-of-three before spring is very far advanced.