Friends of Bronte Creek Park 



Friends of Bronte Creek Park 


Tiptoe Through the Trilliums

Tiptoe Through the Trilliums


Winter, in all its icy glory, has its own sort of austere beauty. But spring brings with it an explosion of vivid colour back into our forests. As you explore the trails around Bronte Creek over the next few weeks, keep your eyes open for the many beautiful spring flowers carpeting the forest floor. Some, like our showy provincial white trillium will remain in bloom for weeks, while others will only peek their heads above the leaf litter for a few days before retreating below ground to wait out another year. Early blooming forest flowers take advantage of the fact that the tree canopy has not fully leafed out. They eagerly soak up the full rays of the sun before giving way for more shade-tolerant species in the summer.

We have listed below some of the most common early spring flowers found in Bronte Creek's deciduous forests. We included both a common name and the scientific name for each plant. Keep in mind that many flowers are known by different names in different areas. For example, our provincial white trillium is also known as large-flowered trillium, wake-robin, and white wood lily.

Spring Beauty – Claytonia virginica

 spring beauty long

These shy, delicate flowers are aptly named. Five white or pink petals are lined in darker pink veins that act as road maps to lead insects to the nectaries at the centre of the bloom. You don't have long to admire their beauty – the blooms last only three days, and close at night or even on cloudy days.

White Trillium – Trillium grandiflorum

trillium white

Our beautiful provincial flower can often be seen carpeting the forest around the Logging Trail and Trillium Trail in early to mid-spring. The large flowers are made up of three white petals that turn pink as they age. Sometimes the petals are divided by a green stripe ranging from very narrow to broad enough to cover the whole petal. These green stripes are caused by a virus.

The trillium flower definitely plays a long game; a germinating seed does not send up a shoot for the first two years. It then takes a further four years before the plant produces its first flower.

The next time you pass a trillium, remember you're looking at the culmination of a minimum of six years of hard work!

trillium green


Mayapple – Podophyllum peltatum

may apple

Have you ever noticed colonies of what look like tiny green umbrellas in the forest? The mayapple emerges from the ground furled into itself and gradually uncurls to reveal two deeply lobed, umbrella-like leaves. If you peer under the leaves, you will see a single white flower hang below. Eventually the flower will turn into a yellowish fruit. Interestingly, the flower contains no nectar and probably often self-fertilizes. Insects will still visit the flowers to gather pollen for food.

Treat mayapples with care; they contain a toxic substance called podophyllum which can cause skin irritations.

Bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis


These beautiful white flowers, clasped by a single lobed leaf, are one of the first blooms of spring and gain their name from the orange-red juice of the stem and rhizome. Just like the spring beauty, bloodroot blooms are fleeting and ephemeral, lasting only about two days. In that time, the flower produces large amounts of pollen, leading researchers to believe that it mainly self-pollinates. This increases the chances of seed production at a time of year when cooler weather can make insect pollination unreliable.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit – Arisaema triphyllum

jack in the pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit has one of the most unusual flowers of the early eastern woodlands. In truth, the striped 'flower' is not the true flower at all, but a floral leaf forming a hooded canopy (the pulpit) over the tiny flowers located on the upright spadix (Jack). While not technically an insect-trapping plant, the shape of the 'flower' and its slippery inner walls means it often becomes an unintentional insect graveyard, containing the bodies of those unwary insects who wandered in and couldn't get out again.

Treat Jack-in-the-Pulpits with care, as they contain a caustic chemical called calcium oxalate.

Trout Lily – Erythronium americanum

troutlily yellow

These tiny nodding flowers form dense colonies easily identifiable by their mottled purplish-brown leaves. Many of the plants will produce only a single leaf, and no flower at all.  The small, yellow, lily-like flowers that do bloom are true sun followers – they turn on their stalks throughout the day to follow the warm rays. Trout lilies perform an important role in the nutrient cycle in the forest. Their roots retrieve phosphorus molecules from spring rain run-offs. When the leaves die back, they release the phosphorus into the soil and thus make it available for other plants to absorb.

Note: White trout lilies (Erythonium albidum) are a very similar species, but occur much more rarely.

troutlily white

Please follow good trail etiquette while looking for spring flowers and remember you are not allowed to pick or remove any flowers or plants from a provincial park.