En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 17, 2012

From: Rochester, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Two-leafed trilliums
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Turns out our 2 leafed plant IS a trillium..I saw that another person from our town also asked about trilliums..we are happy to have them, but it is confusing when the third upper leaf is absent or very, very tiny!


Now, I see that you have answered your own plant identification question.   I suppose your plant was either Trillium erectum (Red trillium) or, perhaps, Trillium sessile (Toadshade).  You would not have found it by doing the search I suggested in your first question because the database refers to the color of the flowers for the two trilliums as "red" and not "purple".   The information about T. erectum on eFloras, however, says that the flowers can be "red, maroon or dark purple."   The general information about the Genus Trillium on eFloras tells us that what we are calling "leaves" aren't true leaves, but bracts.  A bract, according to our Glossary of Botanical Terms, is:

"A reduced or modified leaf occurring at the base of a flower or group of flowers. Bracts are sometimes arranged in rows, like shingles on a roof, usually closely cupping the blossoms of Compositae (Sunflower Family); see also Phyllaries. Sometimes brightly colored or petallike, as in Castilleja (paintbrush), or threadlike, as in Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)."

Nowhere in the eFloras description of trilliums did I see any mention that sometimes one of the bracts is missing or reduced.  The missing or reduced third leaf (bract) would make identification difficult.  I am, however, very happy you figured out what your plant is.

I believe that this is the other question about trilliums from Rochester, NY that you referred to.


From the Image Gallery

Red trillium
Trillium erectum

Trillium sessile

More Plant Identification Questions

Strange growths in flower bed in Virginia
July 07, 2008 - What in the heck are these strange growths in my flower bed?I can't even describe. May I send you pictures?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification, possibly Actaea rubra, red baneberry
August 06, 2008 - I came across a plant that has leaves similar to the astillbe shrub, stands about 3 feet high, and instead of a flower spire, has a chunk of bright red berries the size of medium-sized pearls atop its...
view the full question and answer

Drummonds wild onion growing along creek in St. Edwards Park
April 17, 2006 - I live near St Edwards Park in Austin and was wondering what the name of the onion is that grows along the creek. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from Rigin TX
August 18, 2010 - I have noticed a low growing plant with slick geranium shaped leaves. Today (August 17) I found a tiny- about half inch five sided pod on it. Each side is shaped like a heart! Have not noticed any f...
view the full question and answer

Differences in prostrate Mimosa species
May 27, 2013 - There are apparently a lot of little pink puffy-flowered prostrate plants with thorny stems and sensitive leaves: Mimosa microphylla, Mimosa roemeriana, Mimosa strigillosa. How does one tell them apar...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center