nodding trillium

(Trillium cernuum)

Conservation Status
nodding trillium
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative

     
  Midwest

FAC - Facultative

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Nodding trillium is a 8 to 16 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 or 2, sometimes 3, leafless stalks (scapes) from a short, stout rhizome.

There is no central stem. What appears to be the central stem is actually a slender, hairless scape.

There are no above-ground leaves. There is a whorl of 3 leaf-like bracts at the top of the scape. The bracts are broad, diamond-shaped or egg-shaped to almost circular, 2 to 6 long, 2 to 6 wide, and stalkless or nearly stalkless. They taper gradually to a narrow point at the base, and taper gradually to a sharp point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. They are bright green and do not have red tones.

The inflorescence is a solitary flower hanging on a stalk usually below the bracts. The flower stalk (pedicel) is to 1¼ long and curves downward below the bracts or is angled between the bracts.

The flowers are about 1½ wide. There are 3 sepals, 3 petals, and 6 stamens. The sepals are green, lance-shaped to egg-shaped, and to 13 16 long, as long or slightly shorter than the petals. The petals are thin-textured, white, rarely pale pink, to 1 long, and to wide. They are oblong lance-shaped and come to a point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. They are usually strongly bent backward from just above the base, with more than ½ of their length extending behind plane of the sepal bases. However, this character is an unreliable field mark, as photos on this page indicate. The veins on the upper side of the petals are not conspicuous. The stamens are 1 16 to ¼ long, distinctly shorter than the pistil. The filaments are white, slender, and about as long as the anthers. The anthers are 1 16 to ¼ long and pale lavender-pink or lavender-gray. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is a dark red, egg-shaped, fleshy, juicy berry. It is ½ to 1 in diameter and contains many seeds.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

8 to 16

 
     
 

Flower Color

 
 

White

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Drooping trillium (Trillium flexipes) pedicel is longer, up to 4¾ long; and is straight and stiff, not curved. The petals are thick-textured, not thin, and are conspicuously veined on the upper surface, appearing engraved. The sides of the petal along the tip are straight, not convex. The anthers are longer, 3 16 to ¾ long, and are creamy white or yellow, not pinkish-or grayish-lavender. The filaments are less than ½ the length of the anthers.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Wet to moderate moisture. Woods.

 
     
 
Ecology
 
 

Flowering

 
  May to June  
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28.

 
         
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

 

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  
 

Order

Liliales (lilies, supplejacks, and allies)  
 

Family

Melanthiaceae (bunchflowers)  
  Tribe Parideae  
 

Genus

Trillium (Trillium)  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Trillium cernuum var. macranthum

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

nodding trillium

whip Poor will flower

whip-poor-will flower

whip-poor-will-flower

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Bract

Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk or flower cluster.

 

Pedicel

In plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. In Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen.

 

Rhizome

A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

 

Scape

An erect, leafless stalk growing from the rootstock and supporting a flower or a flower cluster.

 

Sepal

An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

       
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Bill Reynolds
       
  nodding trillium    
       
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Bract

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