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U.S. Forest Service

Plant of the Week

USDA Plants distribution map for the species. Trillium pusillum var. pusillum range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Trillium pusillum var. pusillum. Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillum var. pusillum). Photo by Hugh Nourse.

Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillum var. pusillum)

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.

Dwarf trillium (Trillium pusillum var. pusillum) falls within the pedicellate group. This beautiful spring wildflower’s flower is on an upright pedicel. Flowers are typically seen from early spring, March, to early May.

Dwarf Trillium occurs in swampy forests or mixed deciduous forests. Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

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Terrific Trilliums Species…