Skip to main content

An unusual "quadrillium"

A standout in a family of stunning plants, a gorgeous painted trillium, Trillium undulatum, glistens from a shady copse. A recent expedition into some high Appalachian mountains in southern West Virginia netted many interesting finds, including this species of trillium. If you live in Ohio, good luck finding painted trillium. It barely nips into the extreme northeastern corner of the state, and its endangered status in Ohio is warranted. Venture into the mountains of the Mountaineer State and painted trillium can be frequent in some areas.

The genus name Trillium stems from the latin tres, which means three. An apropos name indeed, as most trilliums come completely assembled in groups of threes: leaves, sepals, petals.

But few rules are hard and fast, and trilliums are known for breaking their normal mathematical code of tres. I was delighted to stumble into a small number of these four-petaled painted trilliums, growing amidst a colony of normal plants. While such "quadrilliums" are certainly not unknown, it was the first time I had seen such an aberration in this species. Finding a four-petaled trillium might be considered equivalent to finding a four-leaved clover.


A typical trillium has three leaves, three petals, and three sepals (pointed leaflike parts subtending the flower and projecting between the petals). There are also three styles - the little filaments projecting from the summit of the ovary in the center of the flower. The small oblong projections surrounding the ovary are the stamens, and there are six ( a doubling of the normal rule of three). This is a typical painted trillium flower, and this scheme holds true for most of the other trilliums.


Here's a closeup of our oddball painted trillium. An anomaly of chromosomes (probably) has shifted this plant from an odd to even formula. There are four petals and four sepals. The sexual parts have been doubled: six styles, and eight stamens. Curiously, the number of leaves remained at three, unless there was a fourth tiny rudimentary leaf that I didn't see.


Such a trillium, while a treat to encounter, is hardly unknown. In fact, this form even has a name: Trillium undulatum forma polymerum. Polymerum means with many members, and refers to the excess parts. Some individuals of this form can have everything in allotments of eight, and I suspect such plants are even more bizarre in appearance than this one is.

Comments

A.L. Gibson said…
Absolutely fantastic, Jim! This is the last of the Ohio indigenous Trillium I need to see and the four-petaled specimen is mind blowingly gorgeous! Glad you all had a great time birding and botanizing in WV!
That's a really cool specimen. mycoplasma like bacteria have been shown to produce double flowered forms and color variants in t.grandiflorum , perhaps the same is true for the painted. Either way its rare and beautiful and congrats on finding it.
Wally said…
Funny you should say that, Michael. I came in here to say that I once found a T. grandiflorum with six petals that was infected with mycoplasma.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…