Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Drooping Trillium - Trillium flexipes   Rafinesque
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Trilliaceae
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AuthorRafinesque
DistributionRestricted to only a very few sites in the southern mountains. A sizable population is present in Henderson County, and there is an historical one from Swain County in 1934. Also, there is vegetation plot report/record from Cherokee County; however, this report came on June 17, a date perhaps after plants had bloomed. This last record in the NC NHP database states: "This record needs to be confirmed. May have been confused with T. simile, which has also been reported at the site". Thus, the website editors have not included Cherokee County on the map.

This is a species mainly of the Ohio Valley, west of the Appalachians. It occurs from NY, ON, and MN south to southwestern NC, central AL, and northern AR. Even in VA it is limited to the Ridge and Valley region in the toe of the state. It is disjunct east of the mountains to parts of DE, PA, and MD.
AbundanceExtremely rare, known currently from just one location in the state. Unfortunately, the State Status is old and needs updating; that status is listed as Special Concern - Historical. It should be upgraded to State Endangered.
HabitatThis is one of many trilliums in the state essentially restricted to high pH forested soils. In NC, it occurs in moist, rich coves over mafic rocks.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and apparently fruits in May and June.
IdentificationThis is a fairly robust trillium with non-mottled leaves (i.e., leaves are all green), similar to several other species. The stem grows 8-15 inches tall, with the three leaves rather rhombic to widely elliptic, about 5 inches long and 4 inches wide. The flower is white (rarely maroon), with three broadly elliptical to ovate petals about 1-1.5 inches long, and somewhat recurved. Most importantly for identification, this species has a rather long pedicel often to 3-4 inches long, and this flower stalk droops such that the flower is often held facing horizontally, just above the leaves, but it may droop so much as to be held under the leaves. Another white-flowered species, T. rugelii, has a shorter pedicel about 1-1.3 inches long, and it is almost always curved downward such that the flower is below the level of the leaves, not above them. T. simile and T. erectum var. album, also white-flowered and occurring in the southern mountains, have a fairly short and clearly erect pedicel (1-2 inches tall), and the flower is not drooping. In T. simile, the petals are quite wide and thus the bases overlap, and they form a cup-shaped base to the flower (i.e., strongly three-dimensional flower); T. erectum var. album has narrower petals that barely or do not overlap, and the face of the flower is somewhat flat and thus is in a single plane. Though this may sound a bit confusing to sort out these four species, remember that T. flexipes is extremely rare in the southern mountains and is normally identified by the very long (over 3 inches) pedicel that droops and causes the flower to be facing sideways or even downward, but generally above the leaves.
Taxonomic CommentsAt one time, such as in RAB (1968), it was included within a variety of T. erectum, as T. erectum var. vaseyi. However, T. vaseyi has generally been a good species for most of the last 50 years, as has T. flexipes.

Other Common Name(s)Bent Trillium is often used. Nodding Wake-robin, Nodding Trillium
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusSC-H [E
US Status
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