Trillium nivale (Snow Trillium)
|Also known as:||Dwarf White Trillium, Dwarf White Wake-robin|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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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Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hastings, MN. Photo courtesy Aimee Dirksen taken in Brown County.
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