Monday, April 22, 2013

A Secluded Trillium Paradise

For the past few years I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing to life the botanical and natural wonders of my great home state of Ohio.  It's been a great pleasure to share with you, the readers my travels and experiences that I am blessed and fortunate enough to have the time and desire to seek out.  Often times while out on these botanical excursions my mind is churning with ideas and excitement on the next potential topic and adventure I can paint on the computer monitors of those who aren't in the field with me.  It's a worthy responsibility and privilege to have this blog allow others to vicariously live through my camera lens.  I always look forward to the next story I can't wait to sit down and write out.  That being said, I think this one definitely fits that bill...

Looking into the sandstone ravine

This past weekend found you blogger cruising the back country roads of the Hocking Hills region in attempt to seek out some of spring's finer wildflower shows and displays.  The skies hung low and dark with the threat of rain constantly on the horizon which cast an aesthetic shadow on the landscape and created a stillness I found eerily comforting.  I eventually came to the spot a friend had suggested for marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) in bloom in a spring seep along the road.  I pulled off to the side and exited my vehicle and began to walk back down the road when I noticed a small break in the forest and a deep ravine crawl back into the hills that my friend had also mentioned to keep an eye out for.  I could feel the cool, moist air flowing out of its sandstone walls and brush past my face, enticing me to explore its depths.

Narrow sandstone cliffs and overhangs of the small gorge

I shouldered my camera gear and slowly stepped into the mouth of the narrow ravine and was instantly immersed into a world of sandstone and the quiet trickle of water that had slowly but surely carved out this beautiful example of time and patience.  To one side of the gorge stood sheer cliffs and overhangs of weather-resistant bedrock and the other steep slopes covered in a dense mosaic of spring wildflowers.

Trillium-lined slopes
Lobed spleenwort (Asplenium pinnatifidum)

My steps were slow and carefully calculated as my boots glided over the soft sand and past rocks glazed over with a slimy film, waiting for their chance to send the ill-footed tumbling into the chilled water.  Growing out of the cracks and crevices of the sandstone were an assortment of ferns perfectly situated to the moist and cool conditions of the hollow.  One that caught my attention were the artful fronds of the lobed spleenwort (Asplenium pinnatifidum).  You'll have to excuse the blurred nature of its portrait above; the darkened skies and deep shadows of the ravine don't combine well with a handheld camera and long exposure.

Red and large-flowered trillium carpeting the lower slopes of the hollow

As I crept deeper into the narrowing hollow and rounded a sharp corner my eyes were suddenly met with one of the most incredible floral sights these traveled and experienced eyes had ever seen.  Hundreds, if not thousands of red trillium (Trillium erectum) and large-flowered trillium (T. grandiflorum) carpeted the precipitous slopes in a fashion nigh on unbelievable.  Each seemed to have been laboriously and tediously situated to perfectly exemplify every individual plant's handsomeness.

Sea of red trillium

My heart began to beat faster as my mind tried to comprehend what I was standing before.  It's ineffable to truly communicate the emotions that were coursing through my body at the sight of such prosperity and beauty.  To many it may sound inane to react in such a way at the mere sight of some flowers but for anyone who knows me understands it's so much more than that.  Each one of us spends much of our lives in the struggle to find and maintain a sense of unity and happiness that gives our minds peace.  Nature has always been that nucleus for myself and its moments like this that continue to strengthen my resolve and reinforce that the path I have chosen for myself is nothing short of exactly what I desire.

Quite the show of red and white
Trillium ensconced hillside

You know you've found a place worth its weight in gold when no photograph you take could ever do its true self any justice.  The camera lens can only just begin to scratch the surface of its beauty and splendor; this secluded trillium paradise can only begin to fulfill its prophecy in person and in all three dimensions.  It really is the epitome of a "you'd had to been there" type of situation.

Red trillium (Trillium erectum)

The most sensational part for your blogger was the dizzying quantities of red trillium present throughout the inner stretches of the sandstone hollow.  I'd seen them before here and there throughout the Hocking Hills region but oddly enough it's always been the white-colored variant (T. erectum var. album) that was the dominant form.  The rich crimson petals may dazzle the eyes but your nose is in for quite the opposite reaction. Red trillium are also commonly known as the stinking trillium for the foul, pungent odor emitted in an attempt to attract pollinating insects.

The sight of all the trillium never gets old

Many other predictable spring ephemerals graced the slopes as well but none could muster the power to overcome the majestic trillium that grew overhead.  It's hard to grasp just how long this site must have existed while remaining undisturbed by the destructive hand's of mankind.  Trillium can take up to a decade to reach flowering maturity and to have so many, so tightly packed together all down the several hundred yards this hollow stretched is quite the remarkable and time-consuming task.

Red trillium (Trillium erectum)
Red trillium (Trillium erectum)

A sudden breeze and cold nip to the air awoke me from my trillium-induced daze and caused me to realize the skies overhead were darkening further with swelled clouds that promised rain.  I certainly could have stayed in the mighty company of these marvelous wildflowers all day and never tired of their presence but precipitation and camera equipment do not mix very well.

Back end of the hollow

The entire drive back my mind continued to envision the scene I had just left and the astonishment I would never forget at the first sight of such an unbelievable accumulation of spring ephemeral wonder.  I hope to find time to return before the trillium are completely kaput for the season but also look forward to what other secrets this impressive site may hold later in the year.  I think it's safe to say I've found another spot to add to my growing list of great places that remain in our state.  Who knows what else lies out there, waiting to be found by the willing and curious.


  1. Damn, Andrew! This is a fantastic site! I'm sure you have put it on your "must see" list for next year. I really wish I lived closer to you so I could revel in this wildflower treasure. Thanks for sharing it with us...

    Jim Fowler, Greenville, SC

  2. Beautiful, Andrew. I can only hope this site is protected? We would hate to see that valley become the next new subdivision or shopping mall.

    Thanks for sharing. Cheryl

  3. Wow! Just WOW! So beautiful to see the white and red blooming together. You must have felt really blessed to find a sight (and a site) like this.

  4. Incredible! What a privilege to find and photograph such a site!

  5. What an incredible place! I enjoyed the photos of the flora here. I didn't realize that red trillium were stinky.


  6. Thank you for your beautiful photos of trilliums in their sandstone gorge home!