Plant Progression: Painted Trillium

Painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) is the showiest of the wildflowers that have appeared in my woods so far this spring.

They don't look very impressive when they start out though:

The leaves emerge tightly whorled together:

As the leaves unfurl, the bud becomes visible:

Here, the bud is invisible, still hidden by the last leave to unfurl:

This is the same plant when I gently spread the remaining leaf:

Note the three leaves, three petals, and three sepals, characteristic of this and other species of trillium. The sepals are the small, green, leaf-like structures you see alternating with the petals in the photo above. Look back at earlier photos of the buds - you see the sepals enclosing and protecting the bud before it opens.