Friday, April 13, 2012

Native Plant of the Week: Nodding Trillium ~ Trillium cernuum

Nodding Trillium ~ Trillium cernuum


The Nodding Trillium is just about to flower in the central Minnesota woodlands. The most common or widely distributed Trillium species in our state, it's a beautiful understated native perennial.

You have to look for the flowers underneath the three leaves as they are hidden below. This Trillium is very similar to Drooping Trillium ~ Trillium flexipes which is less common. Drooping Trillium's flowers are usually above the leaves. See photos and information about the two on the Minnesota Wildflowers site here.

The 1.5 inch wide white flowers are comprised of three petals and 3 green sepals. Not an especially showy Trillium species for the ornamental landscape, it is still a nice woodland native worth seeking out and admiring for its subtle beauty.

We have a small cluster of naturally occurring Nodding Trillium in our own landscape growing in amongst Wild Leeks. Fortunately, this small portion of our landscape was minimally disturbed by previous homeowners.

Nodding Trillium is found in mesic sites in woodlands including cool east facing slopes, and lower lying locations that are seasonally moister. 

Bright red seed capsules form near the end of July into early August. These are much more evident to passers by than the flowers.


Inside the seed capsules are many small brown seeds each with a protein-rich fleshy elaiosome attached to attract ants who are the dispersers of the seed.

Read an earlier post about ants dispersing Trillium seeds and other spring woodland natives whose seeds are dispersed by ants.

Nodding Trillium is native to northeastern North America, see map below for range.
Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP).
2011. 
North American Plant Atlas. Chapel Hill, N.C.