Trillium flexipes (Drooping Trillium)

Plant Info
Also known as: Nodding Wake-robin, Declined Trillium, Bent Trillium
Genus:Trillium
Family:Melanthiaceae (Trillium)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 3-petals

[photo of flower] 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: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a single berry up to about 1¼ inch long, 6-sided with distinct angles. It ripens from green to purplish red.

Notes:

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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More photos

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.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mark - Olmsted County, Rochester
on: 2010-05-02 13:30:53

Photographed two colonies this morning (5-2-2010) in Essex Park.

Posted by: Ellen - Rice County
on: 2012-04-25 13:50:26

Found one in wooded area near my home.

Posted by: Kevin - Lake Francis, Le Sueur County
on: 2013-05-25 11:44:49

A friend of ours on the south side of Lake Francis showed us a few of these plants growing on her property. Very pretty flower & plant.

Posted by: Karla - Grand Rapids
on: 2015-05-28 14:58:16

Found a colony at the edge of our yard.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-05-28 20:04:17

Karla, in your neck of the woods you'll find nodding trillium, Trillium cernuum, rather than drooping trillium. Take a look at the county distribution map to see where a species occurs naturally around the state.

Posted by: Karla - Grand Rapids
on: 2015-05-28 22:46:07

Thank you. I studied the two and still got it incorrect. It is nodding trillium. Beautiful.

Posted by: Terry S - Minneapolis
on: 2017-06-28 13:18:07

Trilliums produce no true (aboveground) leaves; morphologically, the leaves are floral bracts.

Posted by: Susan S
on: 2017-08-22 10:10:14

A single one high on a hill over the St. Louis River near the border of Duluth and Jay Cooke Park. The bright red berry was drooping, but attached above the three leaves/floral bracts. Aug. 20..

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