Least Trillium lives on…

I’m happy to report that the Least (or Dwarf) Trillium (Trillium pusillum) that I feared had been dug up by the plant poachers (as an incidental effect of bluebell thieving) has escaped the spade for another year.

My Ornithology class looked down from the skies today and admired some of the wildflowers on Bluebell Island. The Least Trillium was in bloom. Hooray! The species is classified as endangered in Tennessee, so every plant matters. There is only one other location known for the species in our county.

Note that the annual land trust hike to the island is this weekend. (I’ll be out of town and will have to miss the event.) Land trust volunteer leaders will be on hand to help people across the log to the island (a fun challenge) and to point out interesting plants.


Thanks to Will Coleman and his iPhone for this shot.

Thanks to Will Coleman and his iPhone for this shot.

Over the winter I had some new signs made for the island. A few weeks ago Sanford McGee, Joseph Bordley, Bran Potter, and Bob Salter joined me in a little expedition to put them up. Hopefully the message is clear and people will leave the plants in place:


24 thoughts on “Least Trillium lives on…

  1. gail

    I used to manage a commercial green house for a chain of stores, and noticed that when the greengoods, generally woody arrived, so would a band of women with scissors and plastic baggies who felt no awkwardness when I caught them in the act of “pruning” the plants. Proverbial ‘slice off the loaf’ was the response..

  2. Linda in Helena, Mt

    I’m also pleased to announce that the 3 point buck that grassed my place last year was spotted in the yard this last weekend. I thought for sure he was someones’ dinner(s). I have news for him – deer fence going up this year around the veggie garden….but he and his group are welcome to my grassy areas.

  3. Wayne

    It’s terrible that people would poach plants. In addition to the signs, have you/we ever considered installing tree-mounted game (motion-activated) cameras that can take photos of the poachers in the act? It might at least have some deterrent value. The cameras are small, inexpensive and unobtrusive.

    Wayne Olson
    Sewanee, TN

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Wayne, This is a good idea, although my experience with these cameras is that people steal them — bolt cutters will take them down…I’ve had may taken :( Once the photo has been taken, we’d also need to figure out what to do next. Clear signage is step one, then I think we should reassess.

  4. Van Bunch

    David, are those known to grow in Pickett, Fentress, Scott County areas (Big South Fork)?
    Because they sure look familiar. Should one happen upon an individual of this species, what should one do, besides honor it?



    1. David George Haskell Post author


      I’m not sure exactly what the distribution is in those counties. The following database might help: http://tenn.bio.utk.edu/vascular/database/vascular-browse-genus-results.asp?GenusName=Trillium

      It looks somewhat similar to Trillium undulatum and flexipes. T pusillum is very small, the sepal margins are wavy.

      I’ll look into whether anyone is collecting data on their distribution. Todd Crabtree at TDEC may well be interested in new sightings.

  5. Anonymous

    Lovely pic! And delighted to see that you make visitors welcome first! So many conservation signs omit that, at least in Ireland…

  6. Ruth Rogers (@ruthrogers55)

    Hi David,
    I heard you speak at the AMNH last week. You spoke of ‘forest bathing’, which I’d heard of. You explained what the trees and plants were ‘doing’ which is so beneficial to us. Can you refresh my memory? I walk through Central Park for my little bit of ‘forest bathing’ and would like to acknowledge our cousins, the trees, for contributing to my wellbeing. (Hope it’s ok that I asked on this site.)

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Ruth, Thanks for attending the AMNH talk. Short answer is that we do not fully (or even partly) know all that is going on. Part of the effect of “forest bathing” is undoubtedly the benefit that we gain from exercise and stepping away from many minute-by-minute stressors. But part of it is likely also a chemical effect, at least sometimes. When we inhale the forest air, we draw hundreds of molecules into our lungs. Some of these enter our blood, tying us directly into the forest. I discuss this in the context of “alarm” chemicals that plants give out when attacked by insects, but other volatile chemicals likely to also play a part.

  7. David J Robertson

    You’ve got spring ephemerals blooming, and our (nasty, invasive) Lesser Celandines (the first spring bloomers here) haven’t even begun to flower yet because of the very late and seeming endless winter here in the northern Piedmont!

  8. Andrew Bieber

    Hello – I viewed your Trillium photo on my phone and notice
    that its location appears in the iPhone photo app with
    a high degree of precision. You may wish to turn
    The geolocation option off before publishing pics
    of threatened plants.

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      This worries me. Tell me more. I do not own an iPhone, so I’m not familiar with this. Is the geolocation embedded in the image on this blog, or are the iPhones of my students that took photos in the field somehow linked into a searchable database? Either way, I’d rather get GPS locations off the web.

    2. David George Haskell Post author

      Apologies for my previous question — I’ve found where the GPS info is located in the photo properties. So far Windows will not allow me to strip the GPS info from the file. But saving as a PNG file appears to do the trick. I’ve uploaded the new version. It should now be GPS free.

      Thank you for altering me to this. My camera is GPS-free, so I have not run into this before.

      1. Andrew Bieber

        David – you clearly figured out the solution. Smartphones in general have the geolocation capability and the user can configure (on or off). Some newer cameras also will add geoloc to exif data. There are exif editors out there to remove after the fact. Your approach works too. You may wish to alert your students


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