Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Pale Yellow Trillium - Trillium discolor   Wray ex Hooker
Members of Trilliaceae:
Members of Trillium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Trilliaceae
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AuthorWray ex Hooker
DistributionStrictly found in the upper Savannah River drainage. In NC, it is present for certain only along the Whitewater and Thompson rivers, along with Bearcamp Creek. There is a report farther east from Horsepasture River, but that was many decades ago and never confirmed. The NC NHP lists only Transylvania and Jackson counties, which encompass these rivers; however, SERNEC contains 3 collections from the University of Tennessee herbarium from Macon County, 2 of which were from the "Highlands Arboretum." The third was collected in 2018 from near White Water Falls off rte. 281.

This species is found only in NC, SC, and GA. It ranges south to around Augusta, GA, and north barely into southwestern NC. As mentioned above, this is a Savannah drainage endemic plant species.
AbundanceRare in the NC portion of the range, with locations in the NC NHP database only from four river/creek sites, one of which is considered extirpated. The species is State Threatened in NC. With its small geographic range, it has a Global Rank of just G3.
HabitatThis is a species of very rich slopes -- primarily in Rich Cove Forests, also rich soils alongside forested creeks. Similar habitat in adjacent drainages are simply out of the range of this species.
PhenologyBlooms from late March into early May, and fruits in June and July.
IdentificationAlthough there are a handful of yellow-flowered trillium species in the state, this is an easy one to identify. It has mottled leaves -- dark green with splotches of light green and purple -- like many others, but the three petals are light yellow and not bright yellow or lemon greenish-yellow, and the petals are spatulate (widely rounded at the tip and narrower at the base). These petals are about 1-1.5 inches long, sessile, and erect to somewhat spreading. The plants grow about 6 inches tall, and the leaves are widely elliptic and about 3 inches long and nearly as wide. To see this somewhat "unique" trillium in NC, you may have to traverse very steep topography and rocky slopes to find it. Certainly it would be easier to see it in SC and GA, where slopes are not as steep.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Mottled Wake-robin, Pale Trillium, Small Yellow Toadshade, Faded Trillium, Mottled Trillium, and even a few others.
State RankS1
Global RankG3
State StatusT
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken April 2015, Walker County, GA. TransylvaniaPhoto_natural
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