Trillium erectum L.
Red trillium, Stinking-Benjamin, Wakerobin, Purple trillium
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
Synonym(s): Trillium erectum var. album, Trillium erectum var. flavum
USDA Symbol: trer3
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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Size Class: 0-1 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Pink
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AL , CT , DE , GA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: N.B. to s. Ont. & e. WI, s. to n. DE, PA & KY; also mts. to GA & AL
Native Habitat: Rich woods
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
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
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June 10, 2008
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National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Suppliers DirectoryAccording to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery - Orefield, PA
Amandas Garden - Springwater, NY
Sunshine Farm & Gardens - Renick, WV
American Native Nursery - Quakertown, PA
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
From the ArchiveWildflower Newsletter 1987 VOL. 4, NO.1 - One Million Bequest Announced, Lady Bird Johnson On Celebrating Four Years, Spri...
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Trillium erectum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Trillium erectum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Trillium erectum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2011-05-01
Research By: TWC Staff