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Sweet White Trillium, Jeweled Wakerobin, Confusing Trillium - Trillium simile


Family: Liliaceae - Lily family Genus Common Name: Trillium Native Status: Native
Trillium simile - Sweet White Trillium, Jeweled Wakerobin, Confusing Trillium. Trillium simile is one of our rarer trilliums, being found only in certain mountain areas of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. There is some doubt as to its presence in South Carolina.

Some authorities have classified it as Trillium vaseyi Harbison var. simile.

There are three similar Trillium species with the dark, nearly black ovaries - Trillium simile, Trillium erectum, and Trillium sulcatum. To further confuse, all may have red (maroon) or white petals (T. erectum may have yellowish or greenish petals as well.) White petals are the norm for T. simile, are uncommon but not real rare in T. erectum, and may occasionally occur in T. sulcatum. T. sulcatum flowers are smaller than the others and the petals are only slightly longer than the sepals. It is more difficult to tell the difference between T. simile and T. erectum. The sepals and petals of T. erectum will usually be “flatter” - more closely in the same plane - than T. simile. The petals of T. simile are wider relative to the sepals, usually twice as wide or more, and are more likely to be recurved near the tip than those of T. erectum. With those difficult differentiators, perhaps the easiest way to tell the difference is to remember these common names and use them in reference to the fragrance - T. simile is “Sweet White Trillium”, with a sweet fragrance similar to green apples, and T. erectum is “Stinking Benjamin”, with an unpleasant musty odor more like that of a wet dog.

Found in:
GA, NC, SC, TN

NOTE: In Feb, 2014 I received a comment from Chris Stoehler, indicating that some of the photos I had published on this page at that time were T. erectum var. album. Some research implies that Chris could be considered an authority on several Trillium species, including those under consideration here. I reviewed my identification, and removed the most likely incorrect photographs. I have also replace the first image on the page with one for which I have a much higher degree of confidence. The last three on the page leave some doubt. It may require an April visit back to the site where they were taken to check on the fragrance of the blossoms.

Journal Articles Referencing Trillium

Leave comments on Trillium simile at this link.
Trillium simile

Distribution of Trillium simile in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 23 Feb 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Grassy Mountain, Murray County, GA Date: 2014-May-15Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The ovary of Trillium simile is dark purple to black. The white (sometimes maroon) petals overlap at the base and are usually more than twice the width of the green sepals, and are usually much longer than the sepals. The sepals are sulcate-tipped.
Trillium simile

Site: Nantahala Gorge, NC Date: 2013-April-08Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The sepals and petals of T. simile are in separate planes and the petals are more likely to be recurved near the tip than those of T. erectum.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Trillium simile

Site: Nantahala Gorge, NC Date: 2013-April-08Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The ovaries of T. simile are dark purple, nearly black. The stamens are longer than the pistil.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Trillium simile

Site: Nantahala Gorge, NC Date: 2013-April-08Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Sweet White Trillium holds its sweet-smelling blossom up to 2 feet above the rich forest floor.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Trillium simile

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer