If you grew up in Maine you probably call Red Trilliums (Trillium vaseyi or Trillum Erectus) Stinking Benjamins while in other areas they are often referred to as Stinking Willies. Both names refer to the odor of the Red Trillium. While some describe the scent as "wet dog" others say they smell faintly of rotting flesh. According to scientists, the scent is the trillium's way of attracting insects to increase the odds of pollination. Still others call the trillium Wake Robins because they bloom at about the same time robins return to the area in the spring.
Whatever you call them, these spring flowers bloom in early spring and can be found in deciduous of mixed forests, particularly where there are beech trees. Look for areas where the sun reaches the forest floor in the spring to find these harbingers of spring.
According to Penn State, a trillium plant can live up to 30 years and must be 15 years old to bloom.
The Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) is common in central Maine, although less so than the red. Painted Trillium blooms are somewhat smaller than the Red Trillium, but what they lack in size is more than made up for with their maroon-painted centers. The bright coloration in the center is thought to direct pollinators.
White Trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) also grow in Maine, but I have never seen one in my local area. Trilliums all grow in the same basic areas and prefer rich, acidic soil that is moderately moist and drains well.
Look for Trilliums along the edges of wooded areas, in sunny spots under trees and in moist ditches in April and May.
A red berry containing two or three seeds forms after the blooms have faded. By fall the berry is bright red. Deer are known to eat the berries at times, but it is unknown if other wildlife eat them.
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