Trillium nivale Riddell

Snow Trillium


CC = 9
CW = 5
MOC = 11

© DETenaglia

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb from a rhizome and thickened roots.

Trillium_nivale_scale.jpg Entire plant.

© SRTurner

Trillium_nivale_rhizome.jpg Rhizome.

© DETenaglia

Stems - Erect, to 10 cm, single from the base, simple, herbaceous, glabrous, reddish, somewhat 5-angled.

Trillium_nivale_stem.jpg Stem and node.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Single whorl of 3, entire, petiolate. Petioles 3-4 mm long, mostly glabrous but with minute translucent papillae on the margins (use a lens to see). Blades 7-20 cm long, 2 or more times longer than wide, elliptic to ovate, the tips usually broadly pointed, but not acuminate, shiny silvery-green below, pale bluish-green above, not mottled, the upper surface lacking stomates or with only a few near the tip, glabrous above, with papillae on the margins, with 5 main veins. Lateral veins reticulate. Veins impressed above, expressed below.

Trillium_nivale_leaf1.jpg Leaf, adaxial.

© SRTurner

Trillium_nivale_leaf2.jpg Leaf, abaxial.

© SRTurner

Trillium_nivale_leaves.jpg Pressed leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Solitary terminal flower, erect or ascending above the leaves. Peduncle 1-3 cm long, glabrous, purplish. Flowers nodding slightly or erect.

Trillium_nivale_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence and flower.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 3, spreading to ascending, 8-25 mm long, lanceolate, not purplish tinged. Petals 3, 12-35 mm long, elliptic to narrowly obovate, white, sometimes slightly pinkish tinged at the base, glabrous. Stamens 6-20 mm long, usually more than half as long as the petals. Stamens 6, alternating smaller and larger, erect, distinct. Ovary sessile, superior, glabrous, with 3 rounded lobes. Styles 3.

Trillium_nivale_calyx.jpg Sepals.

© SRTurner

Trillium_nivale_flower.jpg Flower close-up.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Ovoid to ellipsoid berries, nodding below the leaves.

Flowering - March - April.

Habitat - Mesic upland forests on steep, open, north-facing slopes above streams, on limestone and chert substrates.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - None close.

Other info. - This small species is the smallest Trillium in Missouri and the first to bloom each spring. The plant is uncommon in the state and can only be found in a handful of counties. Its very selective habitat limits its range. Outside of Missouri it is found in a handful of upper Midwestern states, but is uncommon in most places. It is an easy species to identify in the field (if you're lucky enough to find it) because of its small size, habitat, and white flowers. Plants are usually found in large numbers in a given area.

Species of Trillium have been popular in shade gardens; however, they are difficult to grow from seed. This has led unscrupulous collectors to dig wild plants for sale. Not only does this adversely impact wild populations, but the excavated plants often do not survive transplantation. Gardeners are urged to know their sources and insist on only nursery propagated plants.

Photographs taken in Lincoln County, MO., 3-19-04 (DETenaglia) and 3-21-2020 (SRTurner).