Northern Nodding Trillium

2019 August 4

Even though our road was badly washed out in the Father’s Day Flood of 2018, not all of the plant life was utterly destroyed. For example, on June 5, 2019, I spotted this little flower on a little peninsula of road margin that had not been washed completely away.


It’s a Northern Nodding Trillium, Trillium cernuum. These have very distinctive three-lobed leaves,


and three-petaled flowers that aren’t a lot bigger than my fingertips.



They generally bloom fairly early in the spring, and like moist areas, which is why there was also a slug crawling on some moist Common Horsetail growing right next to it.


Northern Nodding Trilliums are the northernmost species in the Trillium genus. The flowers are smaller and less showy than many of their relatives. The plants come up from rhizomes, and each stalk only has the one set of three leaves. Technically, they are not leaves, but rather are “bracts”, which are the modified leaves that surround a flower.

While trilliums are very attractive flowers, and they are not endangered, they are protected by a state law originally sponsored by the Michigan Botanical Club in 1943, and revised periodically since then. There are a number of other native wildflowers that are also protected by the same law, as per this list:

Michigan Wildflowers Protected by State Law

I understand that the main reason trillium are on this list is because a lot of people think they would be nice in their gardens, and are inclined to dig them up to take home, but the rhizomes are kind of picky about their growing conditions and end up dying more often than not. Plus, they grow in sensitive areas where people mucking around with boots and shovels will end up killing a lot of other, more-endangered plants. I was always warned as a kid not to pick or molest the trilliums.

Comments are closed.