Trillium nivale (Snow Trillium)

Plant Info
Also known as: Dwarf White Trillium, Dwarf White Wake-robin
Family:Melanthiaceae (Trillium)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:March - May
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 3-petals

[photo of flower] A single flower 1 to 2 inches across on a green to reddish stalk at the top of the plant. Flowers have 3 flaring white petals, generally oval to elliptical with a blunt tip, alternating with 3 narrow green sepals that are shorter than the petals and curl back slightly. The edges of the petals are often a bit wavy. In the center are 6 yellow stamens and a white 3-parted style with curled tips.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Flowering plants have a single whorl of 3 leaves at the top of the stem, just below the flower. Leaves are up to 2 inches long, 1¼ inches wide, mostly oval to egg-shaped with a blunt tip and a short leaf stalk. Leaves have 3 or 5 prominent parallel veins and are bluish to gray green. Stems are green to reddish. Leaves and stems are hairless. Non-flowering plants tend to be smaller, and may have only 1 or 2 leaves.


This is the smallest trillium in Minnesota, one of the earliest spring bloomers, and is a rare find throughout its range. According to the DNR it was listed as a MN Special Concern species in 1984 and is threatened by invasive species—buckthorn and garlic mustard in particular—by land development, and erosion from recreational land use. The remaining populations are on both public and private lands, but there are no programs currently in place to manage and care for this delicate, rare species. In the southeast counties populations are more sparse and scattered than along the Minnesota River valley, where it can indeed look like spring snow. 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 and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hastings, MN. Photo courtesy Aimee Dirksen taken in Brown County.


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

Posted by: Ron - Blue Earth County
on: 2011-04-07 18:54:49

South of Mankato along the Red Jacket biking trail. They caught my eye today (4-7-11) while biking and I recognized them as a Trillium but did not know they grew so small until I found your web site. Thanks for adding the Snow Trillium to my limited wild flower knowledge base. I plan to return with my camera to capture these unique little flowers.

Posted by: Aimee - Norther Brown County
on: 2011-04-13 19:35:10

We just moved to the area this winter (MN river valley) and was surpirsed to see the speckle of white flowers on the hillside yesterday (4/13)...they are so beautiful. Thank you for this wonderful wedsite...I am now excited to see what other wildflowers we can spot throughout the year!

Posted by: kyra - itasca state park
on: 2011-05-20 16:38:09

i was on the bus, and if your wondering im 11, all along the road were the flowers they were pretty i was really wanting one. My mom says there are some in our woods, but they havent bloomed yet.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-20 17:23:28

Yes, they are all pretty, aren't they? :-) If you are up near Itasca State Park, what you probably saw is called large flowered trillium, Trillium grandiflorum. It grows in the woods in most of northern Minnesota.

Posted by: sharen - Fillmore county..Wiselcreek area
on: 2011-07-13 06:45:05

march 26th is the earliest date I have photographed the snow trillium in flower

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2012-03-30 21:51:06

The snow trilliums are blooming gloriously in Red Jacket Park right now. I was there this afternoon to take some photos. Other spring ephemerals are in full bloom (hepatica) or well on the way (Bloodroot, Dutchman's Breeches; others coming up).

Posted by: Brian - Red Jacket Park
on: 2012-03-31 18:28:03

There are huge numbers of Snow Trilliums blooming right now at the site referred to above, along with many hepaticas and a few Dutchman's Breeches and Bloodroots.

Posted by: Clinton - Winnebago
on: 2015-04-06 13:29:28

Found about 200-300 plants just south west of Amboy in Blue Earth County, there is a little easement road that runs near the river. Almost all of the plants were in bloom when we stumbled across them on 4/4/2015. Beautiful little plants!

Posted by: Sandy - Douglas county. Holmes City Township
on: 2015-04-13 17:08:51

I spoted a small clump of these yesterday 4/11/15 along a trail in my wooded area north of the house. Never saw these before..i have larger trillium that bloom later in the spring, but not in that particular area

Posted by: Julie
on: 2015-04-20 19:37:16

Can you (or Aimee D.) tell me where the snow trillium colony picture was taken? It says near the MN River, in northern Brown County, but I'd like more specifics. Don't want to wait till next year to see them. Thanks. Julie

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-04-21 06:38:49

Sorry, Julie, but we don't like to broadcast specific location information for rare plants since there is too great a risk to put them in jeopardy. Besides, it's probably already too late to see them there this year.

Posted by: Patty - Root River County Park, Rochester, MN
on: 2016-04-09 16:08:49

Several snow trillium were blooming on April 5. Fascinating to see.

Posted by: Steve t - Bloomington
on: 2017-05-04 08:31:08

I have photo documentation of snow trillium in the MN River Valley, in Bloomington, along a spring-fed stream. Growing with other unique species including yellow trout lily, wood anemone, rue anemone, bloodroot, dutchman's breeches, hepatica, and sugar maple. This vegetation re-occurs along each spring-fed stream, which were also winter encampments for Native Americans. Since many of these species are quite difficult from seed, (ant dispersed, etc.) and completely out of context (a forest vegetation in the middle of savanna) I am under the assumption this vegetation was planted and maintained by Natives for medicine and food.

Posted by: Jennifer E - Shoreview
on: 2017-05-09 23:10:12

Found a snow Trillium in our backyard near a pond/wet land in the woods How do they reproduce?

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