Trillium luteum

Attempt number two at an entry today–the first attempt had to be abandoned when I finally figured out that the plant had been mislabeled and/or misidentified. So, an email has been sent off to let the institution know…

On the topic of confusion, yellow trillium, yellow wakerobin or yellow toadshade has also been a puzzle for taxonomists, so much so that the Flora of North America entry for Trillium luteum states: “Botanists have been confused by Trillium luteum for a long time. Some, such as A. E. Radford et al. (1968), appear to regard it as a form of Trillium cuneatum, while others confuse it with Trillium viride, a more western species. Early botanists confused Trillium luteum with the occasional individual or very local larger population of pallid color forms of other species. Trillium cuneatum rather frequently produces green, yellowish green, or pale lemon yellow forms (but with a cuneate larger and wider petal) that mimic Trillium luteum. These forms, when growing with Trillium luteum, hybridize, leading to so many intergrades that many plants cannot be placed in either species with any confidence. For these reasons, almost no work older than J. D. Freeman’s (1975) can be used reliably to plot distribution of Trillium luteum“. The map in the Flora of North America shows a relatively restricted distribution in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina. In the USDA PLANTS database, Trillium luteum is also shown to be present in Michigan and Ontario, where it is an introduced species.

Flowering in April and/or May, Trillium luteum is a species of “deciduous forests, thin open woods, rocky stream banks and flats, clearings and openings, old fields, [and] rich mature forest on calcareous substrate[s]”. This perennial grows at elevations from 200m to 400m.

The Missouri Botanical Garden provides a profile on Trillium luteum for gardeners, while the Pacific Bulb Society provides additional images: trilliums.

Trillium luteum

12 responses to “Trillium luteum”

  1. Eric Hunt

    Daniel – this is absolutely stunning. Really beautiful photo.
    I’m anxiously awaiting Trillium season here in Arkansas. Just a couple more months!

  2. Phil Jenkins

    Trillium in Western Washington are all white. Nice to see other colors. Phil Jenkins

  3. Scott Ranger

    This trillium is a specialty of the Southern Appalachian mountains with its center of distribution in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is really quite distinct from all the species you mention if one gets close to it. One of the features that separates it from nearly all the other Eastern sessile trilliums is the scent, said to be like lemon Pledge. I’ve smelled thousands of this plant and they all smell like dirty socks to me! My wife, and Trillium expert friend Tom Patrick, have noses that are quite different than mine as they smell the lemon. I don’t, but I can still recognize this species at 100 yards! It is a great trillium and thanks for highlighting an Eastern flower.

  4. Sue Frisch

    A beautiful photo of one of my favorite plants. Thank you! I am happy to say that (so far) I’ve been successful in getting a few to grow in my northwest Connecticut garden.

  5. Harry Thomas

    Am I to understand you had trouble identifying a plant in a picture, so instead you used one that everyone has had problems with? I like it. 🙂 Taxonomy is an art best achieved by a discerning eye. Sadly one trait I lack or at least to the degree found here on the UBC website.
    I also like the trilliums. We have a pretty nondescript one here, a purple Trillium, Trillium petiolatum, that is one of my favorite wildflowers.

  6. Martha

    I don’t know how many times Trilliums can actually be spotted in northeast Oklahoma forests, but a generous gentleman from Ohio sent me a box of his thinnings for our shade garden.
    Every year, I search the planting area for signs of their return and replace the tags that the squirrels have tossed around.
    Love their sweet little flowers. Great photo!

  7. clayton Oslund

    Great photo. I have been growing this in Duluth, Minnesota for several years. Also grow T. cuneatum. The mottled leaves are a neat contrast to the solid green leaves of the natives in this area.

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    this is number one on my list of bot a day photos nuff said
    my country can be so very pretty thank you daniel

  9. Clement Kent

    I grow T. luteum here in Toronto, Canada. A clump has increased nicely over the years but I have not been brave enough yet to divide it. It is north of a fence which doesn’t allow sun to penetrate until May, which helps avoid untimely freezes.

  10. awcusick

    What is your logic in assigning Trillium to the Melianthaceae? I think its distinctive morphology warrants its own family, Trilliacae, following Michigan Flora Online, Reznicek & Voss.

  11. Daniel Mosquin

    awcusick, I (almost always?) follow the latest conventions from the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group when assigning a family name to a flowering vascular plant species on BPotD. I’m fairly certain Melanthiaceae has included Trillium since its first version in 1998, and has continued as such to APG III, published in 2009.

  12. Richard G

    acusick, Melianthaceae is quite different from Melanthiaceae. As I used to tell students, the position of one letter may make a great difference. In this case, from Monocot to Dicot.

Leave a Reply