About a Rare Plant
Learn to identify and enjoy!
Trollius laxus - spreading globe-flower
- An herbaceous perennial growing 12 – 20” tall
- The five-petalled, pale yellow flowers are 1 to 1 1/2” across, blooming from April to June
- The leaves are deeply, palmately cut, meaning that the leaflets on each leaf radiate from one point like fingers on a hand.
As spring arrives, we eagerly seek out the refreshing green of new shoots and the colorful surprises of early-blooming species. If we step out into the woods, we might find the sweet-smelling blooms of trailing arbutus, Epigaea repens, the bright yellow trout lily, Erythronium americanum, or the brilliant, leaf-wrapped flowers of bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. Spreading globe-flower, Trollius laxus, is another beautiful species blooming early in the spring, but we are not likely to find it. Growing in areas with cold, highly alkaline groundwater seepage, spreading globe-flower is known from only 40, usually small, populations from western Connecticut to Ohio. It is listed as Rare or Endangered in the five states in which it is found. In New England, the species is only known from Connecticut.
Trollius laxus is a charming, buttercup-like plant which grows in low clumps. Although it can survive and thrive in shade, it will only bloom and set seed with sufficient sun exposure. This could be one reason for the species to bloom so early in the year, April or May. Many species which grow in shaded or partially sunny locations with an over-story of deciduous trees (trees which shed their leaves for the winter) will perform much of their life cycle while the trees above are just leafing out. This is the part of the growing season when the most sunlight will reach herbaceous woodland plants.
Spreading globe-flower is a species with fairly particular requirements and does not adjust well to habitat alterations. The Center for Plant Conservation website lists the following threats to the species: Loss of suitable habitat because of wetlands being drained, filled, or flooded for residential, commercial, or agricultural use, Natural succession of wetlands to woody vegetation, Changes in the watershed by humans, beavers, or other sources, Logging, Browsing by deer, Flower predation by slugs, Invasive species competition, and Over-collecting. The Wild Flower Society acquires special state permits each year to try to collect very small portions of seed from the Connecticut populations for storage in The Wild Flower Society seedbank. This seed is stored as a back-up source in case the wild populations disappear over time or through a catastrophic event. The difficulty has been trying to find seeds to collect! The small populations are becoming too shaded or are nibbled on and often do not produce any seed. The Wild Flower Society, along with our many volunteers and partners, is working to help keep this early spring beauty in the New England landscape.