nodding trillium

(Trillium cernuum)

Conservation Status
nodding trillium
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Nodding trillium is a 8 to 16 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 or 2, sometimes 3, leafless stalks (scapes) from a short, stout rhizome.

There is no central stem. What appears to be the central stem is actually a slender, hairless scape.

There are no above-ground leaves. There is a whorl of 3 leaf-like bracts at the top of the scape. The bracts are broad, diamond-shaped or egg-shaped to almost circular, 2 to 6 long, 2 to 6 wide, and stalkless or nearly stalkless. They taper gradually to a narrow point at the base, and taper gradually to a sharp point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. They are bright green and do not have red tones.

The inflorescence is a solitary flower hanging on a stalk usually below the bracts. The flower stalk (pedicel) is to 1¼ long and curves downward below the bracts or is angled between the bracts.

The flowers are about 1½ wide. There are 3 sepals, 3 petals, and 6 stamens. The sepals are green, lance-shaped to egg-shaped, and to 13 16 long, as long or slightly shorter than the petals. The petals are thin-textured, white, rarely pale pink, to 1 long, and to wide. They are oblong lance-shaped and come to a point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. They are usually strongly bent backward from just above the base, with more than ½ of their length extending behind plane of the sepal bases. However, this character is an unreliable field mark, as photos on this page indicate. The veins on the upper side of the petals are not conspicuous. The stamens are 1 16 to ¼ long, distinctly shorter than the pistil. The filaments are white, slender, and about as long as the anthers. The anthers are 1 16 to ¼ long and pale lavender-pink or lavender-gray. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is a dark red, egg-shaped, fleshy, juicy berry. It is ½ to 1 in diameter and contains many seeds.




8 to 16


Flower Color




Similar Species


Drooping trillium (Trillium flexipes) pedicel is longer, up to 4¾ long; and is straight and stiff, not curved. The petals are thick-textured, not thin, and are conspicuously veined on the upper surface, appearing engraved. The sides of the petal along the tip are straight, not convex. The anthers are longer, 3 16 to ¾ long, and are creamy white or yellow, not pinkish-or grayish-lavender. The filaments are less than ½ the length of the anthers.


Wet to moderate moisture. Woods.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  


Liliales (lilies, supplejacks, and allies)  


Melanthiaceae (bunchflowers)  
  Tribe Parideae  


Trillium (Trilliums)  
  Subgenus Trillium  

Subordinate Taxa






Trillium cernuum var. macranthum


Common Names


nodding trillium

whip Poor will flower

whip-poor-will flower














Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antennae. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



An erect, leafless stalk growing from the rootstock and supporting a flower or a flower cluster.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Bill Reynolds

    nodding trillium      


    nodding trillium   nodding trillium  
    nodding trillium      


    nodding trillium   nodding trillium  
    nodding trillium   nodding trillium  


    nodding trillium   nodding trillium  






Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos



Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.