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Environmental Studies

Trillium flexipes (Declining Trillium) Melanthiaceae

Trillium flexipies is one of about 40–50 different Trillium species in the Melanthiaceae or Lilliacea family. Trillium flexipies is commonly called the Declinging Trillium.





“Trillium flexipes: Trillium from the Latin tri, which refers to the flower parts that occur in threes and llium from the Latin liliaceous, whichrefers to the funnel-shaped flower, and flexipes – from the Latin flexus – bent, which refers to the flower’s pedicel being bent in the most common morphology.”

                                                -Larry Stritch


Photo by: Nora Logue



Physical characteristics

Photo By: Nora Logue

All the trilliums come in groups of three: leaves, petals and sepals.

Leaves: The leaves are coarse, green, and simple on the Trillium flexipes. They grow 7 to 25 centimeters long and wide. The leaves are broader than they are long.

Flowers | Seeds: Trillium flexipes flowers have 3 white spreading petals (that can also be seen as purple during bloom) which are 2 to 5 centimeters long; 3 green sepals, 1.5 to 4 centimeters long, that curve back slightly; 6 stamens that are creamy white to yellow, and a creamy central ovary.  The fruit of a Trillium flexipes is 1 1/2 inches long and a rosy-red color (that ripens from green to purplish red). The fruit is also a six-sided berry with distinct angles.

Stem: The stem of the Trillium flexipes as it nears the flower turns from a darker to lighter green. The stem leans diagonally.

Life span: Trillium flexipes slowly develop from seed and take many years to reach maturity. The most growth occurs during the spring before the grown trees (such as Oak and Maple) fully leaf out. The Trillium flexipies is a perennial wildflower that blooms from April 15th to June 1st.

Photo by: Nora Logue



Ecological characteristics

The Trillium flexipes, with it’s spreading petals, is commonly mistaken for the Trillium grandiflorum, whose petals overlap. A key to making the distinction between the two is to carefully examine the petals.


This plant flourishes in:

  • shade

  • mesic woods

  • rich deciduous woodlands

  • wooded slopes

  • large shady ravines

  • rocky bluffs

 Trillium flexipes is a native perennial plant to Lake County, with a C of 6.

Distribution range:




Relationship with other species

Trillium flexipies does not attract many insects, even though it’s flower is readily available to them. Occasionally, some caterpillars American Angle Shades (Euplexia benesimilis) and Black-Patched Clepsis) feed on the Trilliums.

The Trillium flexipes seeds are dispursed by ants.

Trillium flexipes is a White-Tailed Deer favorite they are known to graze on it frequently.





        Swink, Floyd, and Gerould Wilhelm. Plants of the Chicago Region: A Checklist of the Vascular Flora of the Chicago Region, with Keys, Notes on Local Distribution, Ecology, and Taxonomy, a System for the Qualitative Evaluation of Plant Communities, a Natural Divisions Map, and a Description of Natural Plant Communities. Indianapolis: Indiana Academy of Science, 1994. Print.

Page drafted by Kara Ann Bonk