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Trillium erectum L.
Red trillium, Stinking-Benjamin, Wakerobin, Purple trillium
Synonym(s): Trillium erectum var. album, Trillium erectum var. flavum
USDA Symbol: TRER3
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Stinking-Benjamin or Wakerobin’s single whorl of diamond-shaped leaves clasp its 6-18 in. stem. Perched 1-4 in. above the leaves is a single, nodding, crimson flower with three petals curved slightly backward. The petals wither in 2-3 weeks, leaving a fleshy, berry-like fruit. The solitary, nodding flower, with an unpleasant odor, rises on a stalk above a whorl of 3 broadly ovate, diamond-shaped leaves.
This is one of the most common eastern Trilliums. Its foul smell attracts carrion flies that act as pollinators. Early herbalists used this ill-scented plant to treat gangrene, since, according to the Doctrine of Signatures, plants were used to cure the ailments they resembled. As the genus name suggests, the floral parts and leaves of these perennials are arranged in 3s or multiples of 3, typical of the Lily family. Vaseys Wakerobin (T. vaseyi), of the southern Appalachians, is larger in all respects and has pleasant-smelling flowers.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf Complexity: Simple Flower:
Red Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Pink
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
, WV Canada: NB
, QC Native Distribution:
N.B. to s. Ont. & e. WI,
s. to n. DE, PA
& KY; also mts. to GA
& AL Native Habitat:
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Humus-rich soils.
Conditions Comments: This species must be grown in an area where the plant will receive ample sun in early spring.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Birds and mammals eat the berries.
Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS / PREPARATION: Young, unfolding leaves. Wash leaves in warm water to remove dirt and debris. Do not use dish detergent or any type of sanitizer. Cook in boiling, salted water for ten minutes and serve like greens. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Use Medicinal: Early herbalists used this ill-scented plant to treat gangrene, since, according to the Doctrine of Signatures, plants were used to cure the ailments they resembled. (Niering)
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Berries and roots. Only low toxicity if eaten. Toxic Principle: Toxicity unknown, but caution because of its relationship with known toxic plants.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Pictures and sources for black trilliums
June 10, 2008
Do you have pictures and/or sources for Black Trilliums?
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National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Delaware Nature Society
- Hockessin, DEMt. Cuba Center
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2011-05-01
Research By: TWC Staff