Trillium sessile

Trillium sessile, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Liliopsida
Subclassis: Liliidae
Ordo: Liliales
Familia: Melanthiaceae
Genus: Trillium
Species: Trillium sessile


Trillium sessile L., 1753


* Carolus Linnaeus, 1753: Species Plantarum 1: 340

Vernacular names
English: Toadshade


Trillium sessile (Toadshade or Sessile-flowered wake-robin) is a perennial spring wildflower native to the central part of the eastern United States and the Ozarks. It is a small trillium (rarely over 9 cm tall). Toadshade can be distinguished from other trilliums by its single foul smelling, stalkless, flower nestled in the middle of its three leaves. The three maroon petals, maintain a "closed" posture throughout its presence, the petals are occasionally pale green. The leaves are sometimes, but not always mottled with shades of light and dark green. Its species name comes from the Latin word sessilis which means low sitting, and refers to its stalkless flower.


T. sessile is most common in rich moist woods but also can be found in rich forests, limestone woods, flood plains, along fence rows. It is persistent under light pasturing.[2] The foul smelling flowers attract its primary pollinators, flies and beetles.[3] The flowers are present from April-June. This plant is clump forming from a thick rhizome. The above ground parts of the plant die back by mid-summer, but may persist longer in areas that do not completely dry out.

Toadshade is listed as state threatened in Michigan and state endangered in New York; both states are on the northern edge of its range.[4]


Uncommon, green flowered forms of this plant are sometimes classified as Trillium sessile forma viridiflorum (Beyer).


Though some accounts indicate that the cooked greens of this plant may be edible as an emergency food, however the entire plant, and especially the root is known to induce vomiting. The fruits are considered a suspected poison.[5] This plant has been used medicinally to treat tumors.[6] T. sessile is sometimes cited as having been used as a poultice for boils and as a panacea-like decoction, but this is doubtful as it is attributed to Native American tribes (the Yuki and Wailaki) of California, where this plant is not known to occur.[7]

This plant is sometimes used in woodland wildflower gardens. Like many trilliums, T. sessile often does not transplant successfully from the wild.[8]


1. ^ "Trillium sessile". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
2. ^ Flora of North America: Trillium sessile
3. ^ Missouri Plants: T. sessile
4. ^ USDA PLANTS Database: Trillium sessile
6. ^ James Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases: T. sessile.
7. ^ Dr. Moerman's Native American Ethnobotanical Database: T. sessile
8. ^ Missouri Botanical Gardens: Kemper Garden Center: Trillium sessile

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