Classification Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheophyta
Superdivision Spermatophyta
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida
Subclass Liliidae
Order Liliales
Family Liliaceae
Genus Trillium
Species Trillium nivale
Snow trillium

Date: April 5, 2011. Location: West Branch - Private property

BONAP, FNA, ITIS, USDA, VPI

Scientific Name: Trillium nivale (tri; flower parts in three. [Lat] niv- snowy)

Common Name: Snow trillium, Dwarf trillium

Origin: Native perennial

Notes: Snow trillium is one of Iowa's earliest blooming spring ephemerals. It's a small plant, about 6 inches tall and usually found in moist calcareous soils on undisturbed wooded slopes.

Additional references: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

Field Marks for Identification:

Flowers: March—April; the rhizome produces a single six-sided scape bearing one flower with three white petals and 3 blue-green sepals; there are six anthers and three styles; fused styles become free just above the ovary with each free end becoming a linear stigma; stigmas curled or curved.

Leaves: technically bracts since by definition flower scapes are leafless; blue-green, petioled; 3 in one whorl.

Glossary: Botanical Terms

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Comments: Like most woodland ephemerals, Snow trillium is pollinated by insects such as the bee seen in the photo above. Snow trillium (and most woodland ephemerals) also produce a fatty seed structure called an elaiosome which ants find nutritive. As the seeds mature, the scape above the bracts, elongates and bends downward under the weight of the fruit. The mature fruit releases it's seeds (a seed with an elaiosome is called a diaspore) on the ground. Ants collect them and store them in underground food caches where some percentage of the seeds germinate and develop into mature plants. This ant behavior is known as myrmecochory.