Polk County’s Most Wanted — Plant

Published 5:05 pm Friday, June 2, 2017

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) and botanist David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s Polk County’s Most Wanted-Plant, the beautiful and elusive spring ephemeral, Southern Nodding Trillium (Trillium rugelii).

With large white flowers and strikingly recurved petals, Southern Nodding Trillium is a distinctive and readily identifiable species of our spring flora.  Between 12-18 inches in height, with a flower that is found underneath the three leaves, one must often get on hands and knees to fully appreciate the beauty of this plant (and to gain an appreciation for its common name as a result). The anthers are typically dark purple, although sometimes a somewhat lighter shade. Occasionally, one may encounter specimens with maroon flowers.  Leaves are plain and are not mottled.  Flowering occurs from late March to early May, depending on elevation. 

Southern Nodding Trillium (Trillium rugelii) (photo by Bill Sharpton)

Southern Nodding Trillium is a denizen of rich woodlands with circumneutral to basic pH levels. Known from approximately one dozen counties in North Carolina, Southern Nodding Trillium is infrequently encountered and it exists in scattered locations.  Polk County has many areas underlain by mafic rocks that give rise to the type of soils favored by this species.  When searching, look for alluvial terraces adjacent to streams, creeks, and rivers, especially if Spicebush is growing there.

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If you feel that you have seen Southern Nodding Trillium, or any other Polk County’s Most Wanted species, please contact staff at the Pacolet Area Conservancy at 828-859-5060, or e-mail comments, questions, or photos to landprotection@pacolet.org.   

All of the Polk County’s Most Wanted can be viewed on the PAC website, www.pacolet.org.  Click on the conservation tab and scroll down and click on the Polk County’s Most Wanted tab. 

PAC has also created a Pocket Guide of Polk County’s Most Wanted that can be printed and taken in the field. The pocket guide can be accessed on PAC’s website too.

– written by David Campbell