Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Northwest Native Trillium

Kingdom Plantae– Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta– Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta– Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta– Flowering plants
Class Liliopsida– Monocotyledons
Subclass Liliidae
Order Liliales
Family Liliaceae– Lily family
Genus Trillium L.– trillium


Species of this genus native to the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, California and some Canadian Provinces

Trillium L. Trillium
Trillium albidum J.D. Freeman Giant White Wakerobin
Trillium angustipetalum (Torr.) J.D. Freeman Narrowpetal Wakerobin
Trillium chloropetalum (Torr.) Howell Giant Wakerobin
Trillium chloropetalum (Torr.) Howell var. chloropetalum Giant Wakerobin
Trillium kurabayashii J.D. Freeman Giant Purple Wakerobin
Trillium ovatum Pursh Pacific Trillium
Trillium ovatum Pursh ssp. ovatum Pacific Trillium
Trillium parviflorum Soukup Smallflower Wakerobin
Trillium petiolatum Pursh Idaho Trillium
Trillium rivale S. Watson Brook Wakerobin

General Information For This Genus

Click on links below for photos and details of each plant.

Note: Throughout the years I've written short articles for our website's home pages (home pages are the front page of a website) about these plants. They are now included at the bottom of this page, and are illustrated by botanical drawings and paintings, some of which are from books published from 1500 - 1900.

Northwest native Trilliums are some of the simplest plants to recognize. Their three leaves and three-petal flowers are so distinctive, even children can tell them from other plants. This is a blessing as well as a curse because it seems few youngsters can refrain from picking the flowers which retards their bloom because it prevents the corm from receiving the nutrients they require for next year's bloom. Ironically, Wally Hansen did just that when he discovered a colony of these shade loving perennials as a young lad.

"Trilliums are my lifelong favorite. As a depression kid in Washington State, near the Canadian border, way out in the country, we called trilliums “Easter Lilies.” I loved those trilliums, along the damp, shady creek bottoms. I picked them for my mother, who always was so thankful! I rediscovered the magic of trilliums 11 years ago, here in Oregon. One day I was exploring a nearby deep gulch with a small stream. Growth was very dense and in late March, between the high conifers and the lower vine maples, my passage was nearly impossible. I struggled under and over and thru the intricate Vine Maples. The dense overhead leaves created a twilight zone. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of a flash of white ahead. Curious, I crawled toward this “white” object and suddenly came upon a huge Western Trillium – beautiful, perfect glossy green slightly mottled leaves and stunning white petals. Such a striking, beautiful symbol of spring and beauty and renewal – a composite feeling of all that is good and worthwhile and joyful and eternal."

Trilliums are the epitome of woodland plants. Here in the Pacific northwest, we have the classically named Narrowpetal Wakerobin, Giant Wakerobin, Pacific Trillium, Smallflower Wakerobin, Giant Purple Wakerobin and Brook Wakerobin. In the wild, they grow in open to dense moist forests at low to mid-elevations, many times they will be found in areas that are boggy in spring.
Eastern trilliums have much more interesting common names than our more sedate and proper monikers for northwest natives. For instance, if you are in Alabama or Georgia, you may find the Bashful Wakerobin (T. catesbaei) or Little Sweet Betsy (T. cuneatum) or Chattahoochee River Wakerobin (T. decipiens) or Illscented Wakerobin (T. rugelli) or even a Propeller Toad Shade (T. stamineum). If you are in Yankee territory you could have a Whip-Poor-Will Flower (T. cernuum), a Bloody Butcher (T. recurvatum), or Stinking Benjamin (T. erectum). 

Species Information For This Genus

Click on links below for photos and details of each plant.

As yet, not all northwest native trilliums are covered in this website, though that may be done some time in the future. For now, we have information about only three of our northwest native trilliums.

Pacific Trillium (T. ovatum)

Smallflower Wakerobin (T. parviflorum)

Giant Purple Wakerobin (T. kurabayashii)

From Homepage March 16, 2008

The Original Easter Lily

A few years ago the local newspaper, Statesman-Journal, featured an article about our native Trilliums. They interviewed Wally and showed a wonderful photo of him with his beloved Trillium. This perennial flower was one of Wally's favorites and he was well known in this area as being the unofficial spokesperson for what he truly believed is the original lily for Easter. Here's a poem he wrote about them:

Some Thoughts On Trilliums - Wally

First to break free of Winter’s Grasp!

Awake from months of slumber

And hint at warmer days to come!


Three leaves, three petals, three sepals!

To those of Christian Faith - The Trinity Lily.

To all Faiths, a ritual of Spring Renewal!


For brief days, your pure white petals,

Glossy green leaves, delightful form,

Brighten and please and awaken!


Your prim, proper, starched white habits

Of some ancient forest order,

Soon give way to faded red,

A touch of bitter-sweet melancholy.


Plump, pregnant seed pods follow

For future generations - beauty and delight!

Live on, sweet Trillium! Live on Forever!

From Homepage August 9, 2002

'Tis the time to plant my favorite of all native flowers, trillium. As you wander about your gardens, isn't there a perfect spot for this precious perennial? Her needs are not extravagant: only a little shade and a place to grow undisturbed. Perhaps under a Big-Leaf Maple or a stately oak, or a Pacific Dogwood might be just right to nestle a few rhizomes beneath. The early spring sunshine will warm the soil there before the tree's leaves bring their shade.

And once the warmth of the springtime sun reaches the trillium's heart, she will send up her three leaves. Then the three-petaled flower will open to greet you when you stroll past the little trillium patch you planted in August.

Known for hundreds of years as "Wake-Robin," the northwest native Trillium is the harbinger of spring and the best Easter lily of all.

The White Trillium

Trillium graceful, Trillium white,

Star of the woodland, Lady of light

Lo, how she proudly

Stands in the glade, Tri-sceptred sovereign,

Queen of the shade.

Stately she rises,

Slender-stemmed, tall,

Gracious response to Spring's early call,

Lifting three leaf-arms

High from the sod,

Gazing with pure face up at her God.

-Milena Matcska

Contact:  star@chillirose.com ~ Copyright 2012 © Wallace W. Hansen ~ All rights reserved