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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Liliaceae | Trillium

3. Trillium erectum Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 340. 1753.

Wake robin, red trillium, stinking benjamin, stinking willie, birthwort

Rhizomes short, thick, praemorse. Scapes 1–2, often with numerous offsets forming heavy clumps, round in cross section, 1.5–6 dm, ± robust, glabrous. Bracts sessile; blade bright green, lacking dark pigmentation, major veins prominent, broadly rhombic to ovate-rhombic, 5–20 × 5–20 cm, about as broad as long, widest near middle, base attenuate, apex acuminate. Flower erect, ascending, or proximal to but above bracts, odor fetid, like a wet dog; perianth open, flat; sepals flat to sulcate apically, green, often streaked or overlain with maroon, occasionally entirely dark maroon, lanceolate-acuminate, 10–50 mm, equaling petals, ± 1/2 petal width, texture leafy, margins entire, apex acuminate; petals spreading, carried in same plane as sepals or ascending slightly, dark reddish brown, maroon, purple, or white, sometimes pale yellow, major adaxial veins prominent and appearing somewhat engraved, usually flat, lanceolate, ovate-lanceolate, or occasionally ovate, 1.5–5 × 1–3 cm, 2 times sepal width, widest near base, heavy-textured, apex acuminate; stamens erect to slightly recurved, 5–15 mm; filaments white, pinkish, or dark purple, ± equaling anthers, but variable within local populations, thin; anthers erect or weakly recurving, dark maroon, grayish maroon, or yellowish, strongly yellow when pollen exposed, 5–12 mm, dehiscence introrse; ovary dark purple to maroon, even in white-flowered forms, ovoid, elliptic to globose, 6-angled, angles forming very low ridges when fruit is ripe, 5–10 mm, broadly attached at base; stigmas recurved, distinct, dark purple, not lobed adaxially, subulate, short, 3–7 mm, ca. 1/2 or less length of ovary at anthesis, fleshy; pedicel straight, erect, or somewhat declined but not strongly recurved below bracts, 1–10+ cm. Fruits dark maroon, weakly fragrant of fruit, ± globose to slightly pyramidal, 1–1.6 × 1–1.5 cm, juicy. 2n = 10.

Varieties 2 (2 in the flora): e North America.


Case, F. W. and R. B. Case. 1993. Trillium erectum and its hybrids. Bull. Amer. Rock Gard. Soc. 51: 162–168.

1 Petals usually red, maroon, or dark purple.   3a var. erectum
+ Petals white.   3b var. album


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