White Japanese Trillium; aka, Tschonoski's Wake Robin
"What is lovely never dies,
But passes into other loveliness,
Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air."
-Thomas Bailey Aldrich
The three leaves of Trillium tschonoskii emerge as a "whorl" & look very much like a propeller whirligig, though they soon straighten out into a more typical trillium leaf-set. Asthey mature,the leaves become fully round. The majority of trillium species have pointed leaves, so Tschonoski's trillium stands out as quite different with its set of circular leaves.
The nodding white flower are supposed to arrive in April, comparatively tiny at the center of large round leaves. But for whatever reason, for the first year we saw it bud, it never quite completely flowered.
In the first photo you can see the bud enclosed in green sepals, peeping out as though about to bloom pink instead of white.
Because normally the white flowers do age to pink or purple after they're fully opened, I wondered if the sepals for unknown reasons failed to unseal, & the flower trapped within was going through its aging process unable to escape its casing. I can only guess why this happened, perhaps from experiencing a dry day.
Later in April, as shown in the second photo, the bud had still not otherwise changed its appearance, it was clear to see through the slit that it had turned brown, apparently having dried out without ever opening. Perhaps I could've helped it along but "unzippering" its casing, but it never occurred to me, as who could've guessed a plant mightn't know exactly what it needs to do.
The third photo, below, shot in May, shows a consolation bloom of just the green sepals, after the sepals finally opened properly, & the dried flower fell out.
Oh well, maybe next year!
When it blooms properly, the blossoms lasts a very long time, slowly darkening. Over time, as it establishes in the garden, it remains always very short, but becomes a thick stalky clump with many upright stems of leaf-trios & flowers.
It is very hardy in the garden as long as it has a good portion of shade & moist humousy ground, & should do well in USDA zones 4 through 8.
The species is widespread in Asia, ranging from Japan to the Himalayas. It is a particularly sacred trillium because it grows on Mount Fuji.
It was named by a Nineteenth Century Russian taxonomist, Karl Ivanovich (Carl Johann) Maximowicz (1827-1891), in honor of his Japanese collector & friend whose name was "Ruskified" as "Tschonoski," & I can only guess it should have been Chonosok. Several plants are named for him, including in the genuses Acer, Malus, & Rhododendron.
Ours grows at the dripline of a witchhazel in a shade garden of numerous trillium & jack-in-the-pulpit species.
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