Saturday, April 11 , 2015 is Ozark Trillium Day and we are celebrating this rare plant here at our Watershed Sanctuary in Cave Springs, Ark. Conservation of this rare species and its habitat is a priority and part of our stewardship here at the Watershed Learning Center and Sanctuary. Raising awareness about this special flower is important too, and we will be offering guided tours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to view the Ozark Trillium in its natural habitat. Check-in at 221 S. Main St. Cave Springs, AR. For questions, please email  

In celebration of Ozark Trillium Day on April 11th, I wanted to highlight a few unique characteristics about Ozark trillium, also known as Ozark Wake Robin or Trillium pusillum var. ozarkanum if you would like to get scientific.  If you are a budding native plant enthusiast, or like me and new to the area and have some catching up to do in learning your native plants, I will highlight a few of the characteristics that will help distinguish Ozark trillium from other Trillium species.



Ozark Trillium 4-1-15_Terry S

Image courtesy of Terry Stanfill  – Taken at Watershed Sanctuary, Cave Springs, AR


Ozark Trillium, a.k.a Ozark Wake Robin – Trillium pusillum var. ozarkanum

The genus Trillium comes from the Latin for “three” and “lily” in reference to the three leaves and three-petal flowers on each plant and the members of the genus being part of the Lily family (Liliaceae).  Remembering the “tri” or “three” from the name Trillium will help you identify a trillium, especially in early spring before it has gone to flower and you will know where to come back for the show when they bloom in April.

You can easily recognize a trillium by the 3 whorled (circled around the stem) leaves that form at the very tip of a short stalk that comes from the rhizome each year.  Ozark trillium have distinguishingly narrow (<1”), short (about 3”), blunt leaves that are dull green and form at the tip of a stalk about 7-10 inches above the ground.  There is a short stem that separates the bloom from the leaves, a unique feature to Ozark trillium as other trilliums have the bloom sit right atop the leaves.

At the bloom you will notice a second set of three green, leaf-like parts called sepals.  The sepals of Ozark trillium have five prominent veins instead of the usual three seen in other species.   Finally, the lovely white-pinkish petals sit delicately above the sepals.  The flowers darken as they age to a deeper pink to purple before they drop.

Ozark Trillium 1

Ozark Trillium in Bloom – Photo By Cheria Simpson

Ozark trilliums are uncommon and can be found in upland hardwood forests of the Ozarks, usually growing on hill slopes.  Picking of trillium flowers is highly discouraged as it takes the plant several years to reach maturity to bloom and will likely take a few years to bloom again, if it survives the disturbance.  Removal of the leaves from the leaf stalks often cause the plant to die since the leaves produce the food necessary for the plant to survive.  There are a couple of populations around the Watershed Sanctuary here at Cave Springs along the trail, so go check them out but watch your step!

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