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This is where trilliums are found today (above).

TRILLIUM-Trillium ovatum

In North America, there are many types of Trilliums. Some scientists believe that they all are members of the Lily family, while others think they deserve a family of their own because they have netted-veined leaves unlike the Lilies.

The name Trillium was given to this plant because all of its parts comes in groups of 3.

What does it look like?

The trillium can be recognized by its large (up to 5 cm or 3 inches) three white petals, three sepals (small green leaves under the petals) which rise on a stem above three large green leaves (which measure 15 cm or 6 inches). These leaves also are on a tall naked green stem. The white petals change to pink as they age.

Where are they found?

Trilliums prefer shady damp forest floor soils that are rich in nitrogen. They grow at low to middle elevations in shaded areas with low to mid light levels. You can find them in early spring (late March to early April) when their stark white flowers make huge noticeable patches against green leaves on the forest floor.


People picked the tender leaves before they flowered and added them to salads. By doing this, they decreased local populations of Trilliums because the plants would die.

The leaves make sugars that are stored in the rhizomes (roots) and when the leaves are removed, the plant cannot make sugar and most will die. If a trillium does survive, it takes many years for it to regrow and produce seeds, slowing down the population growth.

The Problem

Trilliums face loss of habitat due to development of forests. Ignorant passer byes also contribute to the heightened loss of trilliums by picking them.

What you can do!

If you find a forest area that is being developed and has Trilliums growing on it, you can carefully collect the ripe seeds in summer and plant them to suitable habitat. Make sure to get the landowners permission, appropriate collection permits and permission of the landowner where you will plant them before you start. Remember, these are protected plants!

Transplanting dug up specimens is not usually as successful as simply planting collected seeds, as this perennial does not like to be moved. However, it can be done when the land will be developed before the seeds have ripened. Dig at least 8 inches around the base of the plant to disturb it as little as possible when transplanting each plant. Again, make sure to get permission and permits from provincial or state government.


Scoggan, H. J. Flora of Canada. Natural Museum of Natural Sciences Publication in Botany. No. 7. 1711 pp. Ottawa. 1978.

Sherk, L.C. Growing Canada's floral emblems. The Canadian Wildlflower Society. 33pp. 1988.

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