Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Sweet White Trillium

Sweet White Trillium (Trillium simile)

Sweet White Trillium (Trillium simile) © William Britten use with permission only)

Sweet White Trillium (Trillium simile) is the white form of Wakerobin Trillium, and is also called White Wakerobin. In the lower elevations of the Smoky Mountains this large trillium usually blooms in late March or early April. Sweet White Trillium can be identified by its dark purple center surrounded by yellow stamens. Stands of  Trillium simile can be found along many trails, including Chestnut Top and Meigs Creek. These stands bloom before the common White Trillium that are so plentiful on Smoky Mountains hillsides all over the Park during April.

There is some conflict among wildflower authorities as to the distinction between the Sweet White Trillium (T. simile) and the Erect Trillium (T. erectum), aka “Wake Robin” which has red(purple) and white forms. Some consider T. simile to be a variety of T. erectum while others view it as a distinct entity. This conflict is evident in two of the more common Smoky Mountain wildflower books, “Wildflowers of the Smokies” published by the GSMA and “Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers” by Hutson, Hutson, & Sharp. Perhaps  the most significant distinction between the two is the odor. Wake Robin has a foul odor, hence it’s other common names Stinking Willie, Stinking Benjamin, and Wet Dog Trillium. Sweet White Trillium does not have this unpleasant odor.

Sweet White Trillium (Trillium simile)

Sweet White Trillium (Trillium simile) © William Britten use with permission only

When you’re ready for a break from wildflower scavenger hunts, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg. We’re out on Glades Rd on the historic Arts and Crafts Loop.  Also, you can join the discussion of Smoky Mountains wildflowers on Facebook.  You can post your own photos and share trail information.

3 Responses to Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Sweet White Trillium
  1. Kristina Plaas
    March 31, 2011 | 10:58 am

    It might be useful to point out that there is some conflict among wildflower authorities as to the distinction between the Sweet White Trillium (T. simile) and the Erect Trillium (T. erectum), aka “Wake Robin” which has red(purple) and white forms. Some consider T. simile to be a variety of T. erectum while others view it as a distinct entity. This conflict is evident in two of the more common Smoky Mountain wildflower books, “Wildflowers of the Smokies” published by the GSMA and “Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers” by Hutson, Hutson, & Sharp. For me the most significant distinction between the two is the odor. Wake Robin has a foul odor, hence it’s other common names Stinking Willie, Stinking Benjamin, and Wet Dog Trillium. Sweet White Trillium does not have this unpleasant odor.

  2. Bill
    March 31, 2011 | 11:04 am

    Thank you Kristina! That is such a perfect description, that I’m going to add it into the post. I use three wildflower books … the two you mentioned, plus “Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the southern Appalachians. I noticed the controversy about this wildflower.

  3. Susan Baker Farmer
    March 31, 2011 | 3:59 pm

    There is a white form of Trillium erectum — and the two are *generally* easy to tell apart. The white T. erectum has a very flat flower just like T. erectum does. On the other hand, there are colonies of white Trilliums in the Smokies (it won’t let me edit the comment! — should say of *THESE* white Trilliums) that are almost impossible to identify.

    So far as I know, it’s never been considered a variety of T. erectum, but it has been considered as “the same thing.” It has, on the other hand, been considered a variety of T. vaseyi. Go figure!

    I adore Trillium!

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