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U.S. Forest Service

Plant of the Week

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

Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes). From the northwest corner of Georgia, Trillium flexipes is one 18 species that occur in the state. No other state has as many species of trilliums as Georgia. Image with permission by Hugh and Carol Nourse.

Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes). Observe in this image of Trillium flexipes the right angled pedicel with its flower perpendicular to the lower portion of the pedicel. It is this character state that the species epithet, flexipes, was used by Rafinesque in naming this trillium. Image with permission by Hugh and Carol Nourse.

Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes). The leaf of Trillium flexipes is large, wider than long, and from its widest point tapers to a sessile base. Image with permission by Joel McNeal.

Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes). Note in this image of a maroon Trillium flexipes the maroon margins of the sepals. Image with permission by Tom Barnes.

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

More Photos

Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes). Note in this image of a white Trillium flexipes the white margins of the sepals and the slightly recurved petals. Image with permission by Charles Peirce.

Nodding Wakerobin (Trillium flexipes). Note in this image of a maroon Trillium flexipes the declined pedicel with the flower located below the leaves. Also, note the strongly recurved petals and in the right background a tannish-maroon flower. Image with permission by Charles Peirce.

Trillium vaseyi Trillium flexipes. Photo by Charles Peirce.

Trillium catesbaei Trillium flexipes. Photo by Charles Peirce.

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