Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trillium kurabayashii

Trillium kurabayashii blooming in my garden now
     This is the third and last trillium porn post I am making.  After many years of buying tiny trillium seedlings from various sources,  growing seedlings from my own plants, and religiously dividing trilliums,  I can now say that I almost have enough trilliums in my garden.  Almost, but not quite.  Anyway,  today's post is about the third trillium in my triumvirate of the best trilliums for the garden, in my opinion.  That third member of the ruling class (the other two being Trillium chloropetalum 'Volcano' and Trillium chloropetalum Duane's Strain) is Trillium kurabayashii, also another west coast native.  Trillium kurabayashii is not a Japanese native plant as I have sometimes seen it described on the internet.  Rather, it bears the name kurabayashii in honor of Matsatake Kurabayashi, a botanist specializing in Trillium.  Trillium kurabayashii is, in fact, native to southwest Oregon and northern California.
     I have three different strains of Trilllium kurabayashii growing in my garden. One is from a number of plants I got more than 10 years ago from Janis Ruksans, a famous bulb grower from Latvia.  Ruksans operates a mailorder nursery for bulbs and so when I saw he had these trilliums for sale one year, I ordered 10 of them.  They came as divisions and they all grew and did very well.  It is somewhat ironic that I had to acquire this native plant all the way from Latvia!  Anyway, I have also divided these plants from time to time and so have a large quantity of them in my garden.  While they are good plants and have very nice large clear red flowers, the leaves do not have the dark markings which I prize in trilliums.  The Ruksans plants are good and vigorous growers, however, and clump up very fast and well.
     The second strain of kurabayashiis I have in my garden is from plants I purchased from Heronswood many years ago.  These were offered as Trillium kurabayashii and they were flowering size when offered, so I snapped up a few of them.  I planted them in a place that has since become too shady and root infested for them to do well, but fortunately I got a number of seedlings from the mother plants, and those seedlings have since matured and flowered.  The plant in the picture is one of those seedlings.  I now have about 25 of those seedlings in the garden and they have all flowered and done well and, indeed, are producing seedlings of their own.  At the time these seedlings were produced I did not have other trilliums in the garden that were flowering, so these seedlings are not the result of any intermarriage of species that I know of.
     All of these Heronswood strain of kurabayashiis are beautiful plants. They all have very large flowers of somewhat varying color, from almost black red to a clear dark red.  The leaves on all of them have very good dark markings as is evident from the photo above.  I would have to rate them as generally more beautiful plants than the Ruksans strain.
     The third strain of kurabayashiis in my garden is from Far Reaches Farm.  The plants of this strain seem more like the pictures of kurabayashii one sees on the internet.  The leaves have very good dark markings, but the plants are not as tall as my other kurabayashiis and the flowers are not as large.  I notice that Far Reaches has a good picture of this plant on their website, but they indicate that it is not currently in stock.
     To conclude this journey into the wonderful world of trilliums, if I were serious about trilliums, but just starting out, I would try to seek out these best kinds.  I would not buy bare root trilliums in bags (most of those do not do well, I have found); I would not buy the straight species of chloropetalum unless I were assured it was a good form with large red flowers (I don't care for other flower colors on trilliums), and I would make sure the plants were not collected from the wild.


  1. Linda,

    My name is Colin Davis, I am a collector of rare bulbs (or geophytes by extension) and I work with the University of California, Davis Botanical Conservatory for plant acquisition. I am in search of T. kurabayashii from Heronswood after seeing this post, but am unable to find any information about their establishment. I know this is seed collecting season for this species, so was curious if it might be possible to obtain seed from your Heronswood T. kurabayashii if you have any extra?

    My email is if you would not mind contacting me privately, I would appreciate that. Alternatively, I will check back here to see if you respond with a comment. Thank you for your time,


  2. Hi Linda! I've enjoyed reading more info on this wonderful and deservedly popular trillium. It's a pleasure to see someone else growing it so masterfully. I have linked to this page on my new plant blog. Thanks and cheers!

  3. Fascinating blog entry, thanks i really enjoyed reading and learning from it

  4. Hello Linda, I was captivated by the Trillium Kurabayashii and enjoyed the information about them. However, I would like to know what the tall spike peach colored flowers are in the pictures on your website. They are striking and I would like to get some for my garden. Thanks, Zorah Krueger-Alper