Botanist's request for help leads to another sighting of rare trillium

Southern Oregon's citizen botanists were successful last week in identifying at least one more set of rare trillium plants growing in the Rogue Valley.

Last Thursday Ashland botanist Frank Lang publicly asked Rogue Valley residents to look for Trillium kurabayashii, a rare plant recently discovered in Ashland. Lang's request paid off when a Jacksonville woman called to say that clumps of the flowering plant have grown at her residence since she bought the house in 1972, Lang says.

"But she didn't know where they came from," says Lang, 72, a retired Southern Oregon University biology professor.

Most of the other calls and e-mails sent to Lang and also to the Mail Tribune were false sightings, Lang says. Most likely, Lang says, they were Western trillium, one of 43 species of trillium that grow naturally in North America.

The first documented discovery of Trillium kurabayashii in Jackson County occured recently in the Wright's Creek area of Ashland. Lang and other botanists want to know the extent of its presence in the Rogue Valley.

The plant grows regularly along the Northern California and Southern Oregon coasts, but it is rare inland.

It was described as a distinct species and named in 1975 by botanist J.D. Freeman in honor of a Japanese biologist named M. Kurabayashi, a botanist who worked with trillium chromosomes. Lang once took him trillium-hunting in the early 1970s when Kurabayashi visited Washington state.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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