The awakening woods

Red trillium. Photo by Phil Brown.
Red trillium. Photo by Phil Brown.

Last weekend (May 9) I hiked to Owl Head Lookout in the Giant Mountain Wilderness with my friend Lynda. The early wildflowers were out in force. When we stopped to admire a red trillium, Lynda referred to it as a “wake-robin.”

I didn’t know that this was a name for red trillium. When I got home, I looked up the term in the Oxford English Dictionary, which says it’s a common name for a variety of plants in England and the United States, including other trilliums.

The OED says what may seem obvious: the name derives from the verb wake and the noun robin. The trillium blooms when the robin returns in spring, and so the conceit, apparently, is that the flower wakes the bird. Or is it vice versa?

In Trailside Notes, Ruth Schottman writes that red trillium (Trillium erectum) often can be found as high as 3,500 feet in the Adirondacks and occasionally as high as 4,000 feet. Red trillium favors hardwood forests. She says the painted trillium (Trillium undulatum), which is mostly white, is more often found under conifers in moist woods.

We saw a number of other flowers on the trail to Owl Head, including violets, spring beauty, columbine, Dutchman’s-breeches, and trout lily. It’s a good time to be out in the woods.

Columbine. Photo by Phil Brown.
Columbine. Photo by Phil Brown.

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

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