A Quadrium in 2018

Wes Hayward, 22 April 2018.   Updates 18May2018, 21June2018.

The middle of March is the time of year when trillium begin to appear in the woods south of our house in Beaverton,  OR.   By the end of the month they are there in full force, often in beds containing dozens of flowers, or even more.  

usual trillium
Here are some of the trillium we see in March and April.   The flowers themselves are 2 to 4 inches across with leaf structures that can be as much as a foot across.    Everything happens in groups of three: 3 petals,  3 small leaves under the flower,  3 much
larger leaves further below the flower.    The pedals are pure white, but turn to a lavender as they encounter more sunshine.   Some folks claim there is a lavender variation.   

Occasionally a variation occurs where the theme of three is replaced by a plant with flowers containing four petals.   The groups of leaves also occur with four members.   This is like the four leafed clovers we sought in our youth.    (I don't think I ever did find one of those!)

This is the mutant flower sample that I found this year.   For want of a better term, I've called them quadrium.    

This photo of the flower was taken two days after the initial shot and shows the changing color.

This is not the first quadrium I've seen, but they are pretty rare.    I think it's the 4th one in this area in period of almost 50 years.   I also saw one several years ago while hiking in the Columbia River Gorge.   


May 18, 2018.
1 Month Later:

photo of May 18th We were out of town for almost a month.   I was curious to see the status of the plant when we returned, shown in the photo above.    The flower is now nothing more than four shriveled petals.     I'm amazed that there is even this much of the flower left.   But the leaves are still there,  as robust as they were in April.    Other plants are growing and will soon dominate .


June 21, 2018.

2 Months Later:

  This photo was taken on June 20th.   There is little change from the 1-month observation.   It will be interesting to see just how long the plant lasts.

A second Quadrium Surprise!   A second Quadrium was found in this same wooded area, about 200 yards from the first one.   This one was in a similar environment, a secluded plant embedded in a group of traditional Trillium.    

I'm quite amazed that we found this second plant, for the discovery was long after the season with flowers in bloom.    This is Quadrium #6 for me.   I had previously estimated the probability that a given Trillium would be the Quad mutation to be perhaps a part or two in 10,000.     I'm now thinking that the Quadrium probability is higher, perhaps a part in 1000.     This admittedly esoteric speculation suggests a more fundamental question about plant mutations:  With patterns of three being very common, is there a general probability that mutations of 4, will occur?    For example, what is the probability that a patch of clover will contain one with 4 leafs, and is this a general characteristic or something specific to every species?    What might the root cause be for such mutations?