Trillium flexipes (Drooping Trillium)
|Also known as:||Nodding Wake-robin, Declined Trillium, Bent Trillium|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; woods|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||8 to 20 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A single 3-petaled white flower at the end of a stalk up to 4 inches long at the top of the plant. The flower leans over or nods down and may be above or below the leaves, but is more often above. A flower is 1½ to 2 inches across with 3 white petals that curve back to varying degrees, 3 green sepals that curve back slightly, and 6 creamy white to yellow stamens. The ovary in the center may be white or pinkish purple. The tip of the stamen (anther) is quite long, proportionate to its “stem” (filament), which is usually less than ¼ the length of the stamen. The sepals are as long as or shorter than the petals. A plant has a single flower, but not all plants flower. Rarely, a flower is purplish red.
Leaves and stem:
3 leaves are whorled at the top of the main stem, where the flower stalk arises. Leaves are broadly oval to rhombic, to 6 inches long and wide with toothless but often wavy edges, an abrupt, sharply pointed tip, and no leaf stalk. The main stem is smooth and light green.
Drooping Trillium may form small colonies from spreading rhizomes, but scattered, solitary flowers are common. Drooping Trillium is very similar to Nodding Trillium (T. cernuum). Various references mention that the length of the flower stalk or filament, the degree the petals curve, the degree the flower angles, size of the leaves, or other differences can help in differentiating the 2 species but there is much overlap in all those respects. I used to believe the color of the anthers was the best way (Nodding Trillium has pinkish purple anthers) but have found that is not reliable, either (sigh). General rule: if the flowers are above the leaves it is likely Drooping Trillium, but keep in mind they are not always above the leaves, but usually are. Location within the state can help with an ID, as well, since Drooping Trillium is far less common. At one time Trillium was in its own Trilliaceae family, then moved to the Liliaceae (Lily) family, and is now back in its own family, renamed Melanthiaceae.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and in Goodhue County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Vermillion Falls, Dakota County, and in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?