Nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum)

Nodding trillium flower

Top facts

  • The nodding trillium is the most northerly occurring Trillium species in North America.
  • The fruit of the nodding trillium is a dark red, oval-shaped berry.
  • The nodding trillium grows at elevations between 30 and 600 metres.
  • Removing invasive species from the habitat of the nodding trillium has led to a boost in population numbers in those areas.
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Nodding trillium fact file

Nodding trillium description

GenusTrillium (1)

The nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum) is a tall forb (2) with attractive white or pale pink flowers (4), which have strongly recurved petals, straight stamens with pale lavender or pale grey anthers (2) (4) and are surrounded by three green, lance-shaped sepals (2) (4). The leaves are oval-shaped with pointed tips and are arranged in a whorl of between one and three leaves towards the tip of the stem (2). The fruit of the nodding trillium is dark red (2) (3) (4), oval-shaped berry (2).

Height: 20 - 40 cm (2)
Leaf length: 4 - 15 cm (3)
Petal length: 1.5 - 2.5 cm (3)

Nodding trillium biology

Very little is known about the biology of the nodding trillium, although this species is known to flower from spring to summer (3) (4), usually between April and July (4). It is a perennial herbaceous wildflower, with individuals usually living for over two years (2) (3) (6).


Nodding trillium range

The range of the nodding trillium extends across central and eastern Canada and the north-central and north-western United States (3) (5).


Nodding trillium habitat

The nodding trillium inhabits wet, swampy woodlands (3), and it is found in both deciduous and coniferous forests (3) (4). This species generally grows at elevations between 30 and 600 metres (4).


Nodding trillium status

The nodding trillium has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Nodding trillium threats

Threats to the nodding trillium include the destruction of its forest habitat (6) and the introduction of invasive species such as the common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), honeysuckle (Lonicera species), spindle-tree (Euonymus species) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which compete with this species for resources (7).


Nodding trillium conservation

The nodding trillium is classified as endangered in Illinois and Indiana and as exploitably vulnerable in New York. The species is thought to be locally extinct in Ohio (5). Removing invasive plant species from the habitat of this species has previously been used as a conservation measure to eliminate unnatural competitors. To ensure the nodding trillium population does not decline further, it is vital to preserve its habitat and protect it from urban encroachment (7).


Find out more

Find out more about the nodding trillium:

Find out more about North American plant conservation:



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Part of the stamen (the male reproductive organ of a flower) that produces pollen.
A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
Any herbaceous (non-woody) flowering plant that is not a grass.
A small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
Describes species introduced deliberately or unintentionally outside their natural habitats where they have the ability to establish themselves, invade, outcompete natives and take over the new environments.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
An underground, horizontal plant stem that produces roots and shoots.
A leaf-like, usually green part of the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
The male reproductive organ of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).
A set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.


  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (April, 2014)
  2. University of Wisconsin - Nodding trillium (April, 2014)
  3. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service - Nodding trillium (April, 2014
  4. Flora of North America - Nodding trillium (April, 2014)
  5. United States Department of Agriculture -Trillium cernuum (April, 2014)
  6. Ohio Department of Natural Resources (April, 2014)
  7. University of Wisconsin - Trillium cernuum (April, 2014)

Image credit

Nodding trillium flower  
Nodding trillium flower

© Muriel Hazan / Biosphoto

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