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

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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?

Posted by: Addeline T - Mankato
on: 2018-04-24 13:03:42

Found a few popping at 7 mile creek park off 169. Seems to be a bit later than last year.

Posted by: Dave J. - Douglas County
on: 2018-04-30 10:58:46

We found these for the first time April 29, 2018. There are quite a few (hundreds) in this area but are somewhat threatened as lots are being sold and houses built in these woods.

Posted by: Kari H. - Sunrise Township, Chisago County MN
on: 2018-05-20 09:55:00

Found these flowers (May 19-20) deep in the woods while out turkey hunting. Area is private land about 8 miles west of the St Croix River. Didn't know what they were until I searched on this website.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-05-20 12:06:28

Kari, what you found was not snow trillium, but Trillium grandiflorum, large-flowered trillium. This year snow trillium was blooming about a month ago, and if you check the distribution map you'll see it isn't found as far north as Sunrise Township. Large-flowered trillium is very common in that area. Compare the leaves and you'll see the difference right away.

Posted by: Bryan J. - Douglas County
on: 2019-04-17 19:59:55

I have a patch of these plants on my property that has expanded from an area about 10 feet across to 30 feet in the last few years. This is located in a dense young sugar maple bush on a south facing slope of a lake. The little white flowers are blooming up through the snow this Spring!

Posted by: Thomas - Root River Olmsted County Park
on: 2019-04-27 07:56:38

Lots of snow trillium blooming just past their peak as the later trilliums are starting to bud.

Posted by: kate c - Hastings SNA
on: 2019-04-29 20:19:16

Found the snow trillium blooming today (4-29-19) at the Hasting SNA along with Dutchmen's Britches, wild ginger, and sharp-lobed hepatica.

Posted by: Nancy Sather - City of Jackson and along Cottonwood River in Lyon County
on: 2020-04-04 02:15:46

About 15 years ago there were lovely patches on private property in wooded ravines in the heart of the city of Jackson . Also in 2007 they carpeted certain areas of private and public land along the Cottonwood River in Lyon County.

Posted by: Lucus - Root River Valley
on: 2020-04-06 17:07:34

Spotted Snow trillium popping up all over in the Root River Valley today. My first encounter with them.

Posted by: Herman Bartsch - Good Thunder
on: 2020-04-09 13:17:44

I've been noticing these where we collect maple sap along the Maple River just south of Mankato. Last year they were blooming on March 28th. This year March 29th.

Posted by: Roxy Janezich - Bloomington
on: 2020-04-10 10:50:16

There is a nice colony in the Minnesota River Valley.

Posted by: Marty Cormack - Root River Park - Olmsted County
on: 2020-04-22 21:02:28

Today the Trillium were the dominant wildflower blooming in Root River Park south of Rochester.

Posted by: Don Ramsden - Winona County
on: 2020-04-22 21:25:01

Saw today when out for a walk. North facing slope. Maple/basswood forest type.

Posted by: Patricia - Hartley Nature Center, Duluth
on: 2020-05-24 17:54:13

Just two of them, alongside a woodland trail.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-25 07:38:30

Patricia, if you look at the distribution map, you'll see snow trillium has a limited range in the southern part of the state. It also blooms in April and would be long done by late May. What you undoubtedly saw was Trillium grandiflorum, large-flowered trillium, a common woodland species found in much of Minnesota, including the Duluth area.

Posted by: Cynthia Shirk - Mankato
on: 2021-04-04 21:02:28

We have clusters of snow trillium in our east facing ravine. It's the smaller flowering specie, so I'm sure it's snow trillium and not the large-flower trillium. It's in full bloom today.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-04-05 08:44:00

Cynthia, if it's blooming in early April, it can only be snow trillium. Lucky you!

Posted by: Robert Premo - Minnesota Valley
on: 2021-04-06 21:56:38

A nice young man told us about this, we've never seen it, so pretty excited, he told us where to look for it, and after trying but not succeeding we bumped into him again, opposite direction, he gave us better directions and we were successful. So tiny, and not a whole lot of them, so pleased to see them. The flower is quite the same as grandiflora, but the leaves and the plant itself was so much smaller, and earlier. Thanks to him. He may be an above mentioned person. Love spring, and it's ephemeral beauties.

Posted by: Tom Miller - 7 mile Creek Cty Park, Nicolet Cry.
on: 2021-04-16 22:51:10

My wife and I saw snow trillium for the time on 4-5-21 on a walk at 7 mile. We recognized them as trillium but didn't know what kind.

Posted by: Michelle Yarmakov - Rapidan park - Blue Earth County
on: 2022-04-20 20:02:24

4-19-22 saw quite a few and took pictures

Posted by: James Sullivan - Root River Park in Olmsted County
on: 2022-04-21 14:13:31

Seen many blooming (4/21/22) on the hillside of the Root River Park. Only wildflower I saw in full bloom there so far this spring.

Posted by: Don Wendel - Cedar Creek Ecosystem Scientific Preserve
on: 2022-05-04 22:42:47

These small trilliums are blooming along the Cedar Bog Lake lowlands trail.

Posted by: jeffrey niles - Coon rapids MN
on: 2024-04-28 17:42:38

I have this growing in my back yard and front yard gardens

Posted by: jeff niles - Wild river state park/Jaycook state park
on: 2024-04-28 17:45:34

I have seen this plant in Wild river state park (nearby Almelund MN) as well as Jaycook state park (carlton MN)

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-04-28 17:58:10

Jeff, you won't find snow trillium at either Wild River or Jay Cooke state parks - what's there is Trillium grandiflorum, large-flowered trillium. In all likelihood, that's what you have in your yard as well. You can easily tell by the leaves.

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