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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - June 23, 2011

From: Newton, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification of a trillium in New Jersey
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have several Trillium grown from one seed source. The plant looks like Trillium cuneatum, but unlike that plant, the stems of these plants -- which seed freely in my Northwest New Jersey garden -- lay on the ground so that the leaves appear to be flush with the soil. I was told this plant was Trillium alabamensis, but that does not appear to be a recognized name. Thoughts? Thank you so much -- I need the correct name for a book caption.

ANSWER:

As well as doing a general "Google" search, I searched in the followed taxonomic databases for Trillium alabamensis:

This name couldn't be found in any of them.  I don't know where your informant got that name but I don't believe it is a valid name for any Trillium species. 

Next, I tried looking for other trilliums that might meet your description.   I'm not sure where you got your seeds and if it was a source for native trilliums from your area, but I did find one native, Trillium sessile (Toadshade), that looks very similar to Trillium cuneatum (Little sweet betsy) but with very short stems.  Here is a description of T. sessile and a description of T. cuneatum from eFloras.org.  These descriptions aren't easy to get through, but T. sessile seems to be, essentially, a shorter, smaller version of T. cuneatum.  Neither are seen to occur in New Jersey on the distribution maps on the eFloras site, but distribuion maps for both T. sessile and T. cuneatum in the USDA Plants Database show them appearing in states adjacent to New Jersey. 

Your best bet for determining the identity of your short trillium, I think, is to contact someone with the New Jersey Native Plant Society.

 

 

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