Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Vasey's Trillium - Trillium vaseyi   Harbison
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Trilliaceae
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AuthorHarbison
DistributionFound throughout the southern half of the mountains, northeast to Avery, Burke, and Rutherford counties. It normally is found from Madison and Buncombe counties southwestward, as there are as yet no records of this conspicuous species for well-worked Yancey and Mitchell counties, nor from adjacent McDowell County. As many trilliums in the southern Appalachians have very "tight" ranges, it is possible that the Avery County record might represent a non-natural record.

This is a Southern Appalachian trillium, ranging north only to the middle portions of the mountains of NC and TN, and south to northwestern SC and northern GA. There are a few disjunct records for the Coastal Plain of GA and eastern AL.
AbundanceGenerally fairly common, to locally common, in the southern mountains, primarily at the lower elevations below about 3,500 feet. It is not on the NC NHP Watch List.
HabitatThis is one of many NC trilliums that are mostly limited to very rich, generally circumneutral shaded soils. It is a characteristic wildflower of Rich Cove Forests, particular at lower elevations in the mountains. It does occur in other rich forests, such as in floodplain forests or near forested streams.
PhenologyPerhaps the latest blooming montane trillium in the state, generally from late April into early June. It fruits in July and August.
IdentificationThis is generally the largest and most robust trillium in the state, usually reaching 1.5 feet tall and rarely to 2 feet tall. The three large leaves are bright green and not mottled with lighter green; they average close to 6 inches long and nearly as wide and are rhombic in shape. The short flower stalk is sharply bent downward, such that the large flower is "hidden" beneath the bases of the leaves. Each of the three petals is usually maroon in color, though some can be white. The petals are about 2 inches long, nearly as wide, and are strongly recurved. The stamens are much longer than the ovary and thus stick out well beyond the petals. Thus, in overall appearance it resembles a large T. rugellii, which is almost always white-flowered. That species normally is a smaller species (though still impressive for a trillium), but it has filaments of the stamens as long as the ovary or longer, as opposed to shorter. There are a few other floral characters to distinguish these two, but in general T. vaseyi has maroon flowers (as opposed to white) and is a quit robust plant in all proportions. Spotting a stand of these not uncommon trilliums in bloom in a rich forest such as at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is often a highlight of s spring season walk in cove forests.
Taxonomic CommentsIt is shocking that this species was considered as a variety of the quite different T. erectum in RAB (1968) and some other older references. Needless to say, essentially all recent references consider this as a valid species.

Other Common Name(s)Sweet Wake-robin, Sweet Trillium, Sweet Beth
State RankS3? [S3]
Global RankG4
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