Rhizomes horizontal, white, slender, elongated, brittle. Scapes typically 1(-3), round in cross section, 1.5-4.8 dm, slender to robust, glabrous. Bracts held well above ground, strongly petiolate; blade at first strongly mottled in darker green or bronze, mottling fading with seasonal expansion after anthesis, rarely all green, ovate, elliptic, or lanceolate, 6-18 × 2.5-6.5 cm, not glossy, apex acuminate; petiole ca. 1/5 bract length. Flower erect, fragrance not reported; sepals strongly recurved basally and held against scape by turgor pressure, green, sometimes purple-streaked, ovate-lanceolate, 18-35 × 6-18 mm, margins entire, apex acute; petals long-lasting, erect, ± connivent, ± concealing stamens and ovary, dark maroon purple to clear yellow, occasionally 2-colored with purple and yellow, not spirally twisted, lanceolate to ovate, 1.8-4.8 × 0.9-2 cm, thick-textured, base attenuate to weakly clawed, margins entire, apex acute; stamens incurved, 10-15 mm; filaments erect, dark purple, 4-6 mm, ± slender; anthers strongly incurved above filaments, dark purple, 5-16 mm, ± thick, dehiscence introrse; connectives strongly incurved inward, dark purple, projecting about 1 mm beyond anther sacs; ovary greenish with ± purple stains distally, transversely rhombic to angular-ovate, somewhat 6-angled or -winged, 7-10 mm, ± equaling filament height; stigmas erect, divergent-recurved, distinct, ± linear, 4-6 mm, slightly thickened basally. Fruits green to white- and purple-streaked, odorless, rhomboid-ovoid, 6-angled, almost winged, ca. 1 cm diam., pulpy. 2n = 10. Flowering spring (late Mar--late May). Rich clayey floodplain soils, plants often temporarily inundated while in flower; rich moist woods and bluffs, limestone-derived soils; 100--200 m; Ala., Ark., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., La., Mich., Miss., Mo., Ohio, Tenn., Tex., Wis. Trillium recurvatum has several named color forms, most notably forma shayi E. J. Palmer & Steyermark with clear yellow petals, and one foliose anomaly (possibly caused by mycoplasma).
Perennial herb with a relatively long, slender rhizome stem 15 - 48 cm tall Flowers: single, stalkless, with six distinct tepals. Stamens six, alternating in two whorls of three. Sepals: three, persistent, sometimes streaked purple, 2 - 3.5 cm long, 6 - 18 mm wide, egg- to lance-shaped, strongly recurved. Petals: three, dark maroon-purple to clear yellow (sometimes purple and yellow), 2 - 5 cm long, 0.9 - 2 cm wide, lance- to egg-shaped with a pointed tip, clawed, upright or arching inward, more or less concealing the stamens and ovary, long-lasting. Fruit: a many-seeded berry, green to white- and purple-streaked, about 1 cm wide, diamond- to egg-shaped, six-angled, nearly winged, pulpy. Seeds many, elliptic.
Similar species: This species and Trillium nivale differ from other Trillium species by having distinctly stalked leaves. Trillium nivale differs by having a stalked flower that is typically white.
Flowering: mid-April to mid-June
Habitat and ecology: Common in woods, and usually the most common member of the genus. It survives disturbance, and may be found in pastures and other degraded places.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Trilliums do not actually have true leaves or stems above the ground. The underground rhizome produces scale-like leaves called cataphylls. The aboveground leaf-like structures are bracts that subtend the flower, but these are internally and externally similar to leaves and function in photosynthesis. Many authors will refer to them as leaves.
Etymology: Trillium comes from the Greek word trilix, meaning triple, referring to how all the plant parts occur in threes. Recurvatum means "curved (or bent) backwards."
Author: The Morton Arboretum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Infrequent throughout the state. All of my specimens are from woodland of different kinds although I recall seeing the species along the railroad south of Battle Ground, Tippecanoe County.
Rhizome horizontal, relatively long and slender; lvs with a distinct petiole 1-2 cm, the blade elliptic to ovate or subrotund, acute or short-acuminate, usually mottled; fl sessile; sep lance-triangular, commonly reflexed at anthesis, 2-2.5 cm; pet erect or arching inward, 2-3 cm, normally maroon, distinctly and slenderly clawed, the blade lanceolate to ovate, acute or short-acuminate; filaments half to fully as long as the distally incurved anther; stigmas slender, widely divergent, about as long as the 6-winged ovary; 2n=10. Moist woods; w. O. to s. Mich., s. Wis., and e. Io., s. to Ala., La., and e. Tex. Apr., May.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.