CPC Plant Profile: Persistent Trillium
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Plant Profile

Persistent Trillium (Trillium persistens)

Trillium persistens in flower Photo Credit: Hugh and Carol Nourse
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Melanthiaceae
  • State: GA, SC
  • Nature Serve ID: 147783
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 12/07/2021

This member of the lily family, listed as endangered in 1978, is a small perennial herb that produces a 3-petaled pink flower in early spring. These plants require 7-10 years to mature, making it difficult to sustain stable populations in the native habitat of this endangered plant taxon (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 2002).

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/18/2020
  • Propagation Research

Pence and Soukup (1995) performed in vitro micropropagation studies and learned that Trillium persistens grows slowly in vitro, taking up to 8 months for shoot production, but is still a much faster way of producing plants ex situ than seeding which takes 2 - 3 years longer.

  • 10/18/2020
  • Genetic Research

Susan Farmer recently completed a series of studies of the family Trilliaceae (Farmer 2000, Farmer 2006, Farmer and Schilling 2002). Her work supports the delineation of the genus Trillium as a monophyletic group, but does not address Trillium persistens as a species.

  • 10/18/2020
  • Tissue Culture

Tissue culture propagation methods for this species have been developed (Pence and Soukup, 1995; Gagliardo et al., 2012).

Valerie Pence
  • 01/08/2018

Tissue culture propagation methods for this species have been developed (Pence and Soukup, 1995; Gagliardo et al., 2012). [Less...]

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Narrow endemic of a single drainage straddling the Georgia/western South Carolina border. A large, contiguous population probably extended along the river banks before major dams and reservoirs inundated former habitat and fragmented the range.

Linda G. Chafin
  • 01/01/2010

The USFWS recovery plan (1984) recommends that a commercial source for the plants be developed and that seeds be stored in a long-term storage facility.

Linda G. Chafin
  • 01/01/2010

development road widening herbicide application logging wildfire poaching

Linda G. Chafin
  • 01/01/2010

Georgia: Fewer than 12,000 plants in 6 populations are known. South Carolina: two populations are known, with fewer than 100 plants.

Linda G. Chafin
  • 01/01/2010

Susan Farmer recently completed a series of studies of the family Trilliaceae (Farmer 2000, Farmer 2006, Farmer and Schilling 2002). Her work supports the delineation of the genus Trillium as a monophyletic group, but does not address Trillium persistens as a species. Pence and Soukup (1995) performed in vitro micropropagation studies and learned that Trillium persistens grows slowly in vitro, taking up to 8 months for shoot production, but is still a much faster way of producing plants ex situ than seeding which takes 2 - 3 years longer.

Linda G. Chafin
  • 01/01/2010

Most of the Georgia plants are on Chattahoochee National Forest or state park land. A large population on state park land is threatened by a proposed building project. Removal by bush-hogging of woody and aggressive herbaceous species on state park land resulted in re-appearance of 100s of plants. Current management recommendations include: apply prescribed fire judiciously after plants have completed life cycle; avoid use of herbicides; avoid logging, clearing, trail construction, or other mechanical disturbances; protect plants from trampling and collecting; use non-herbicidal methods to eradicate invasive pest plants such as Japanese honeysuckle.

Linda G. Chafin
  • 01/01/2010

Determine effects of prescribed fire Conduct long-term demographic studies Determine effect of past and current disturbances

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Trillium persistens
Authority Duncan
Family Melanthiaceae
CPC Number 4336
ITIS 43058
USDA TRPE7
Common Names Persistent Trillium | Persistent Wakerobin | Edna's Trillium
Associated Scientific Names
Distribution Narrowly endemic, persistent trillium is a rare species only found at the head of Tallulah Gorge in Georgia and South Carolina (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 2002). Historically, according to its recovery plan by USFWS in 1984, three other populations were found in Georgia at Moccasin Creek, Panther Creek, and in South Carolina along Battle Creek, but there was difficulty in tracking those populations according to the species' 5-year review by USFWS in 2011.
State Rank
State State Rank
Georgia S1
South Carolina S1
Habitat

T. persistens grows particularly well in hardwood forests with plenty of steep slopes along streams (Chafin 2007).

Ecological Relationships

Trillium persistens follows the typical life history of other trilliums; it sheds seeds in July which overwinter and germinate the following spring, when the plant puts down a primary root but does not produce a stem. The second spring, a seed leaf (cotyledon) and stalk are produced. During each subsequent spring, for three years, a single leaf is produced which photosynthesizes and stores carbohydrates in the rhizome; only in the fifth and sixth springs are there sufficient stored resources to produce a 3-leaved plant. Flowering occurs in the seventh year, if moisture and nutrient levels are sufficient; otherwise, plants may be up to 10 years old before they flower.

Typically, Trillium plants may well be more than 10 years old before flowering and fruiting (Ohara 1989) and may live for several decades. As with other species in this genus, the seeds of persistent trillium are myrmecochorous, i.e. they bear a small lipid- and protein-rich structure, an elaiosome, which attracts ants. Ants collect the seeds and carry them back to their nests where they feed the elaiosome to their larvae. After the larvae eat the elaiosomes, the ants carry the Trillium seeds to a waste disposal area where dead ants and ant feces create a nutrient-rich seedbed. Potential pollinators that have been observed visiting Edna's trillium flowers include wasps, honeybees, small bees, and small flies; sap beetles may also be an effective pollinator (USFWS 1984). Ednas trillium is not a vigorous competitor and will not survive in areas with a dense herbaceous layer; it is quickly overcome by exotic pest plants such as Japanese honeysuckle that invade following disturbance (Patrick et al. 1995).

The herb typically grows in mixed pine oak-hemlock forests, associated with rosebay and Carolina rhodendron in moister sites and thickets of lowbush blueberry in drier sites. It also thrives well in oak-beech forests (Chafin 2009, Flora of North America Editorial Commitee 2002).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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