Plant of the Week
Graceful Trillium (Trillium gracile)
By Larry Stritch
All trillium species belong to the Liliaceae (lily) family and are rhizomatous herbs with unbranched stems. Trillium plants produce no true leaves or stems above ground. The “stem” is actually just an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces tiny, scalelike leaves (cataphylls). The aboveground plant is technically a flowering scape, and the leaf-like structures are actually bracts subtending the flower. Despite their morphological origins, the bracts have external and internal structure similar to that of a leaf, function in photosynthesis, and most authors refer to them as leaves.
Trilliums are divided into two major groups, the pedicellate and sessile trilliums. In the pedicillate trilliums, either the flower sits upon a pedicel that extends from the whorl of bracts, “erect” above the bracts, or “nodding” recurved under the bracts. In the sessile trilliums, there is no pedicel and the flower appears to arise directly from the bracts.
Graceful trillium falls within the sessile trillium group. Graceful trillium is the least familiar trillium of the sessile trillium species. They typically flower from early to mid-April to early May.
Graceful trillium occurs on the upper coastal plain on the Louisiana-Texas border. Graceful trillium inhabits mature hardwood and pine forests and low sandy flatwoods, in rather dense shade and occasionally in open sandy locations.
For More Information
- PLANTS Profile - Trillium gracile, graceful trillium
- Flora of North America: Trillium gracile
- Case, F.W., R.B. Case. 1997. Trilliums. Timber Press, Portland, OR.