Are White and Red Trillium a different species?

A question of speciation

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Questions about speciation of flora can be complex and are so in the case of trillium. A straightforward answer is “yes,” white and red trillium are different species with distinct characteristics, as can be seen from the first photograph.

The white trillium below are in the species Trillium grandiflorum as evidenced by coloration, the shapes of the flower petals and anthers. For this discussion I will focus on the flower petal shape and coloration. The grandiflorum petals are broad at the base and wavy, compared to the more blade-like red trillium, Trillium erectum, straight-edged petals.

There is the obvious difference of color, but Trillium erectum has a white form, not seen here.

Click any photograph for a larger view.

Then, there is this specimen, below, with a stippling of red on blade-like petals with wavy edges. Here is where the experts differ and, in summary, many believe trillium species are an interrelated complex with the possibility of hybridization, sharing of genetic material between the different species to produce fertile offspring. This specimen may be an example of this hybridization.

Click me for another Trillium posting

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

25 thoughts on “Are White and Red Trillium a different species?

  1. These are beautiful. My friend just gave me a couple plants and I’ve been considering where to put them in my yard. Somewhere in a shady area where they have space to spread, it seems, from your lovely post. :0)

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    1. most trillium sold were collected in the wild as they are difficult to propagate. Wild populations are at risk from this. Not to run your joy……just a heads up about getting some more. Good luck with them. They need some sun, better under a deciduous tree that will be leafless in the spring.

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  2. Trilliums are the provincial Flower of Ontario. I am looking forward to seeing them out on the forest trails where I go with my horse. Sadly as Ima up up on the horse it’s not possible for me to take good photos of them. Most are white that I see here.

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      1. No they are not out yet. I know the places where they grow in the forest. I can see leaves but no blooms yet. But the weather is warming up so next week I think they will be up.

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