Trillium erectum L.
author:  Rachna Patel
Biology Major
University of Georgia, Athens
e-mail at:


Table of Contents
Trillium erectum
Trillium erectum

Photograph by John Pickering

Common Names

Bethroot, Trillium, Red Trillium, Purple Trillium, Ill-Scented Trillium, Birthroot, Birthwort, Bathwort, Bathflower, Red Wake-Robin, Red-Benjamin, Bumblebee Root, Daffy-Downdilly, Dishcloth, Indian Balm, Indian Shamrock, Nosebleed, Squawflower, Squawroot, Wood Lily.  These common names also apply to other species.

Higher Taxa


    The species authority for Trillium erectum is Carolus Linnaeus.  Trillium erectum has petals that are usually marroon or white, with anther the same color.  Its leaves are unmottled, shaped from rhombic to rhombic-ovate and 8-18 cm long with width 6-25 cm.  The leaves are short-petiolate to sessile, usually wider than long.  The stems are 2-5 dm in height and purplish to green in color.  Its rhizome are 2-6 cm long and 10-25 mm in diameter.  Trillium erectum has berries which are dull red or purple, ellipsoid to ovoid in shape,  and 1.5-2.5 cm long.  The pedicels are 1-9 cm long and erect or divergent.  The sepals are horizontal and 2-4 cm long, 0.7-1.5 cm wide.  The stamen are 0.8-1.5 cm long, filaments 2.7 mm long, and the stigma is maroon or rarely white.  The whit variation of Trillium erectum is hard to distinguish from Trillium cernuum.  The two species can be seperated by the length of the filaments or the maroon colored ovary of Trillium erectum (Radford, Albert E. et al., 1968).
    The holotype is located at the Harvard University Herbarium in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  The type locality of the specimen is rich woods.
    Click here to view some forms of Trillium erectum.


The distribution of this species is throughout Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia; south to New England, Deleware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and, in the mountains to Georgia; west to Tennessee; north to Michigan.

 Trillium erectum L.
North America: 
Continental U.S.; Canada
Yes Click here
Eastern North America: 
U.S. east of Mississippi; Ontario and eastern Canada
Yes Click here
Southeastern U.S.:  AL AR DE DC FL GA KY MD NC SC TN VA WV Yes Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Southern Appalachian States: AL GA KY MD NC SC TN VA WV  Yes Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Coastal Plain No Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Piedmont No Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Blue Ridge Mountains Yes Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Great Smokey Mountains National Park Yes Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Ridge and Valley No Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Cumberland Plateau Yes Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Georgia Yes Duncan and Kartesz, 1981
Clarke County, Georgia Yes UGA Herbarium Specimens
The figure below shows the distribution of this species in Georgia.
Map courtesy of Samuel B. Jones Jr.


Natural History

Trillium erectum requires full shade, moderate moisture, and a woodland area.

It flowers in May and June.  It can be used medicinally for ulcers, tumours, diarrhoea, dysentery, hemorrhages.

It has a foul odor, similar to that of rotting meat, to attract carrion flies for pollination.
This species is an angiosperm, or flowering plant.  The figure below describes the life cylcle of an angiosperm.

Diagram Courtesy of Neil A. Campbell

 How to Encounter

You can find Trillium erectum in rich woodlands, near a shady moist area around April to June.


Campbell, Neil A.  1996.  Biology.  The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc.  Menlo Park, California.

Duncan, Wilbur H. and J.T. Kartesz.  1981.  Vascular Flora of Georgia. University of Georgia Press.  Athens, Georgia.
    ISBN 0-8203-0538-3.

Jones, Samuel B., Jr and Coile, Nancy C.  1988.  The Distribution of the Vascular Flora of Georgia.  Dept. of Botany,
    University of Georgia.  Athens, GA.

Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles & C.R. Bell. 1968.  Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Caroolinas.  University of North
    Carolina Press.  Chapel Hill, NC.

Walters, Dirk R. and Keil, David J.  1996.  Vascular Plant Taxonomy.  Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.  Iowa,
    Dubuque.  ISBN 0-7872-2108-2.