Plant of the Week
Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes)
By Larry Stritch
Nodding wakerobin is an herbaceous, long-lived, woodland, perennial wildflower with a broad distribution the eastern United States, primarily west of the Appalachian Mountains; from Pennsylvania, western New York and West Virginia; through the central United States to Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri in the west; and a narrow band in the Appalachian Mountains from extreme southwest Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama with outlier occurrences in South Dakota, Arkansas, Maryland, western Tennessee and Mississippi; only recently discovered in southern Ontario, Canada.
Trillium flexipes: Trillium from the Latin tri, which refers to the flower parts that occur in threes and llium from the Latin liliaceous, whichrefers to the funnel-shaped flower, and flexipes – from the Latin flexus – bent, which refers to the flower’s pedicel being bent in the most common morphology.
Trillium flexipes has a short, thick rhizome from which a sheath (highly modified leaf called a cataphyll) enclosed scape (stalk of the inflorescence) emerges from the ground to20 to 45 centimeters tall with a single, terminal flower. Leaves are (actually bracts) three, green, sessile, wider than long, ovate-rhombic, appiculate, and 7 to 25 centimeters long and wide. The flowers are pedicellate, pedicel erect, angled, right-angled, or declinate beneath the leaves. Petals are three, creamy white, maroon, or light, tannish-maroon spreading to strongly recurved, ovate-elliptic, and 2 to 5 centimeters long. Sepals are three, green, on maroon colored flowers the margins occasionally streaked with maroon, spreading, and 1.5 to 4 centimeters long. Fruit is a rosy-red, six-sided berry.
Trillium flexipes flowers from early to late spring (dependant on latitude and/or elevation). The species occurs in mesic, rich, deciduous woodlands on calcareous soils along stream valleys and on higher, well-drained, alluvial soils in bottomlands.
For More Information
- PLANTS Profile - Trillium flexipes, nodding wakerobin
- Case, F. W. and R. B. Case. 1997. Trilliums. 284 pp. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon.
- Jacobs, D. L. and Jacobs R. L. 1997. Trilliums in Woodland and Garden: American Treasures. 152 pp. Eco-Gardens. Decatur, Georgia.
- Patrick, T. 2007. Trilliums of Georgia. Tipularia 22: 3-22. Georgia Botanical Society.
- Frett, J. 2007. Trilliums at Mt. Cuba Center: A Visitor’s Guide. 75 pp. Mt. Cuba Center, Inc. Greenville, Delaware