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."
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.