The trillium flower is a genus of perennial herbaceous plants in the melanthiaceae family and boasts between 43 to 50 different species. Although several species of this plant grow in areas of Asia, the majority of them grow in both Central and Eastern regions of the United States. The trillium grandiflorum – or white trillium flower – is by far the best known species; however, the variety grown can depend upon the region. For example, the white trillium mostly grows in eastern areas of North America, while the Western trillium – as its name implies – can be found growing in more westerly regions. Although there are many varieties and colors available, trilliums are easy to identify due to their triangular shape, three perfectly aligned and equally sized bracts, and long stems. Their hues include the classic white, plus shades of red, purple and pink.
The trillium flower has a long history for a number of culinary and medicinal uses. It is said that for ages many Native American tribes cooked the greens of this plant. Today, the greens are frequently fried, boiled or placed in salads and eaten as an earthy side dish. Their medicinal uses also began with the Native Americans, as some tribes used the root as an effective emmenagogue. Since its discovery as a powerful agent against female reproductive ailments, many other fantastic uses have popped up. The roots are sometimes boiled in milk to help ease stomach complaints; the leaves are boiled in a base – usually lard – to create a soothing salve for skin ulcers; the species that carry heavy astringent properties are regularly used to treat internal hemorrhages, while the acrid types may aid in correcting lung ailments, fevers and phthisis. As well as being a great curative and a tasty dish, the trillium flower has also become the state flower of Ohio, and the emblem for the province of Ontario, Canada – where it is now the focus of urban myth. Many who were raised in the province grew up with the notion that it was illegal to pick wild growing trillium, but are now finding out that this is untrue. However, in several areas of the United States – such as Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Washington – this myth is actually true, though only on public land.
As a gift, trilliums are often given to represent healing. They may also symbolize the joys of spring – as they are early spring growers – or modest ambition. They can be given to someone who is graduating or starting a new path in life to symbolize encouragement, or as a simple “get well” gift for someone going through hard times.