Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sometimes Trillium flexipes can be Red or Pink

Some groups of plants have more natural variability than others. If you look at a large population of genetically diverse individuals of a single species sometimes they are almost homogeneous and sometimes there is a lot of variability. Trilliums belong to the latter camp. One of the easiest to spot, least subtle variations is flower color. Someone spotted this red Trillium flexipes at Shenk's Ferry. It was a considerable distance up a quite steep slope, but that didn't seem to deter anyone from climbing up to see and photograph it.

When we arrived at the plant in the picture, the one visible from the trail, we discovered that there were other non-white individuals growing together in a relatively small area. There were various shades of pinks ranging from quite light to rose. Tony Avent spoke at the Symposium and a large part of his talk detailed plant collecting trips and the wide ranging variability of this genus. I have to wonder if the extreme variability of some taxa isn't sometimes as much an element in our attraction to them as their appearance. It is fun to know you will, or might anyway, find a surprise when you look at a population.

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