South Dakota Native Plant Research
Liliaceae : Trillium cernuum

Liliaceae : Trillium cernuum


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Family Name


Common Name

Nodding trillium


Trillium cernuum is a perennial herb from a short rhizome, the stem 30-50 cm tall, topped with a whorl of 3 terminal leaves. The simple, leaves are rhombic-obovate, 6-12 cm long and wide, with a petiole-like base and usually have a sharp tip. The flowers hang beneath the leaves on peduncles 3-4 cm long. The 3 green sepals are broadly lanceolate, 1.5-2 cm long. The 3 white petals are oval to obovate and 1-3 cm long. The 6 stamens have anthers and filaments that are each 4-5 mm long. The fruit is a berry, about 3 cm in diameter, that starts out white and ripens to a deep red. Nodding trillium blooms in June and July in the moist deciduous woods along the coteau des prairies in eastern South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Nodding trillium is a lovely understory addition in a wooded native planting. The leaves, flowers and fruit add color and texture in a shaded area. They take patience, spreading slowly and requiring up to 7 years to flower when planted by seed.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect red fruit in July and August and remove seeds from fleshy tissues. Keep seeds refrigerated until planting.

Germination: Plant right after harvesting or sow in the fall. The seeds need 90-day cold-warm-cold treatment for spring planting.

Vegetative propagation: New plants arise from the rhizome and can be divided and transplanted in the fall.

Soil: Rich, organic, well drained soils.

Light: Partial to full shade.

Water: Moist conditions.

Liliaceae : Trillium cernuum