Flora Fact: Baygall Beauty
Rare Texas trillium brightens Pineywoods bogs.
By Jason Singhurst
I first encountered Texas trillium on a field trip with the late botany professor Elray Nixon to Naconiche Creek in Nacogdoches County, one of the finest spring-fed streams in East Texas. This type of forested bog can be very mucky, he advised, so always hike with a companion. He noted my white baseball cap, which would float if I sank into an abyss, allowing rescuers to find me. Great comfort!
Five species of trillium (in the lily family) occur in Texas. Members of this genus are commonly known as trillium, wakerobin, toadshade, squawroot or carrion flower. Lately, these species have gained attention as garden plants.
Texas trillium, also known as Texas wakerobin, can be found in southwestern Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana and East Texas. It differs from the rest of the trilliums in Texas by having pedicellate flowers (a stem that attaches a single flower) with white petals. All other trilliums in
Texas have maroon (or rarely yellow) flowers. Small green wood orchids and yellow fringed orchids occur at many of the Texas trillium sites. Both have basal leaves that could be mistaken for the juvenile leaves of Texas trillium.
Texas trillium flowers from March to May. In early flowering, Texas trillium petals are bright white, but in late flowering they turn pink.
Texas trillium habitat occurs along the margins of forested bogs, locally known as baygalls. One of the easiest places to observe this globally rare plant is the baygalls of Angelina National Forest. All of the other populations are on private land, but the Tyler Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas typically offers spring field trips to populations around Smith County.
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