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Trillium cernuum L.

Nodding trillium

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassLiliidaeIncludes lilies, orchids, and many others
OrderLilialesIncludes lilies, tulips, trilliums, greenbriars, and others
FamilyMelanthiaceaeTrillium family
GenusTrillium“Three-petaled lily”

About plant names...

Nodding trillium, like all members of the trillium genus, is a native North American perennial woodland flower. This isn’t just any trillium, it is the species Linnaeus used as the template for the genus. “Nodding,” because the flower hangs downward, facing the ground. They prefer wet, swampy deciduous or mixed deciduous and conifer forests.

Plants: A single stalk 6-24" (15-60 cm) tall, topped by a single flower.

Leaves: A group of three leaves (technically bracts) are evenly spaced around the top of the stalk. The leaves are sessile (attached), or nearly so. Each leaf is 1½-6" (4-15 cm) in size, somewhat wider than long, ovate but sharp-tipped.

Flowers: Each flower is white, cream, or rarely, pink, with three strongly recurved, oblanceolate petals. Each petal is ½-⅞" (1.5-2.5 cm) long. There are three lanceolate pale green sepals between the petals. Each sepal is about the same length as a petal, but not recurved. The top of the stalk bends so that the flower is facing the ground. Flowers appear from April to May to as late as July in northern climates.

Fruits: A single dark red, six-sided berry, up to 1" (3 cm) in diameter. The berry contains two or more seeds.

Edibility: Leaves are used to flavor soups or salads.

See also this Trillium comparison table.

Online References:

The U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site



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Trillium cernuum L. var. macranthum Eames & Wiegand


Trillium cernuum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 20 Dec 2020.

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Trillium cernuum (nodding trillium)

12/8/2020 · Epping, NH · By Susan Cole Kelly


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