AskDefine | Define trillium

Dictionary Definition

trillium n : any liliaceous plant of the genus Trillium having a whorl of three leaves at the top of the stem with a single three-petaled flower [syn: wood lily, wake-robin]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several perennial flowering plants, of the genus Trillium, having flowers with three petals

Extensive Definition

Trillium is a genus of about 40-50 species of perennial herbaceous flowering plants, native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. They used to be treated in the family Trilliaceae or Trillium family, a part of the Liliales or Lily order. The AGP II treats Trilliaceae as a synonym of the family Melanthiaceae. Common names include trillium, wakerobin, and birthroot. The above ground parts of Trilliums are scapes with three large, leafy bracts with the true leaves reduced to underground papery coverings around the rhizomes.
In the east of North America, the most common is Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium). This plant has a large, often white, three-petaled flower above three broad bracts that look like leaves. The name was given by Linnaeus. Trillium grandiflorum is often the first wildflower noticed by casual walkers; other spring wildflowers are much less apparent.
In western North America, a typical species is Trillium ovatum (Western Trillium) also with white flowers, that slowly turn into a shade of purple in the middle of spring.
Picking Trillium for their flower can seriously injure the plant. The three leaves (more correctly leafy bracts) below the flower are the plant's only ability to produce food stores and a picked trillium can take many years to recover. For this reason in many areas, e.g. British Columbia, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, and Washington, it is illegal to pick and/or transplant trilliums from public lands with out a permit from the State. right|thumb|Trillium grandiflorum flower detail. While it is a popular belief that it is illegal to pick the common Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium) in Ontario, in reality no such law actually exists. However, the rare Trillium flexipes (drooping trillium) is protected by law in Ontario [], because of its very small Canadian population.
Trillium is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants and mice. Trillium seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and put the seeds in their garbage, where they can be protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant garbage.
Some trilliums have a flower which is bent downward, below the leaves.
A white trillium serves as the emblem and official flower of the Canadian province of Ontario. It features prominently on the Franco-Ontarian flag.

Species of Trillium


External links

trillium in German: Waldlilien
trillium in Spanish: Trillium
trillium in French: Trillium
trillium in Portuguese: Trillium
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