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Trillium erectum - L.
Common Name Beth Root - Indian Balm, Red trillium, Wakerobin, Purple Trillium
Family Trilliaceae
USDA hardiness 4-9
Known Hazards Can cause nausea in high doses and promote labour and menstruation. Local application can cause irritation. Should not be used during pregnancy [301].
Habitats Cool, rich, moist, neutral to acidic soils of upland deciduous forests, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, coniferous swamp borders at elevations of 200 - 700 metres[270].
Range Eastern N. America - Quebec to Ontario and Michigan, south to Tennessee.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: Purple. Main Bloom Time: Late spring. Form: Upright or erect.

Trillium erectum Beth Root - Indian Balm, Red trillium, Wakerobin, Purple Trillium

Trillium erectum Beth Root - Indian Balm, Red trillium, Wakerobin, Purple Trillium
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Trillium erectum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in) by 0.3 m (1ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from May to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Used in spring[207], the young unfolding leaves are an excellent addition to the salad bowl, tasting somewhat like sunflower seeds[183]. Leaves can also be cooked as a potherb[183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiseptic;  Aphrodisiac;  Astringent;  Birthing aid;  Expectorant;  Poultice;  Tonic;  Uterine tonic.

Beth root was traditionally used by various native North American Indian tribes as a woman's herb to aid childbirth, as a treatment for irregular menstrual periods, period pains and excessive vaginal discharge[254]. Modern research has shown that the root contains steroidal saponins, which have hormonal effects on the body[222, 238]. These saponins are being used in gynaecological and obstetric medicine[238]. This herb should not be taken during pregnancy except under professional supervision[254]. The root is antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, expectorant, tonic, uterine tonic[4, 46, 61, 165, 222, 238]. It is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of women's complaints including haemorrhage from the uterus, urinary tract and lungs, and also to curb excessive menstruation[238]. It has proved to be of value in stopping bleeding after parturition[244]. Externally, it is used to treat excessive vaginal discharge, ulcers (especially varicose), skin complaints, gangrene, insect bites and stings[238, 244]. It is also used as a wash for sore nipples[244]. The root is harvested in late summer, after the leaves have died down, and is dried for later use[213, 238]. The whole plant is used as a poultice for tumours, inflammations and ulcers[222].
Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Border, Ground cover, Woodland garden. Prefers a deep well-drained woodland or humus-rich soil in a somewhat shady position that remains moist in the summer[1, 42]. Prefers a neutral to slightly acid soil[200]. Grows well in open deciduous woodland[1, 90]. Succeeds in a sunny position if the soil does not dry out[42]. Succeeds in deep shade[188]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c[238]. Plants are long-lived[233]. Any transplanting is best done whilst the plants are in flower[200]. A very variable species[200], it is subject to mutation[90]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[233], though slugs are very fond of the leaves[238]. The flowers have an unattractive smell rather like putrefied flesh[42, 207, 245]. The white-flowered form, blandum, is almost scentless[245]. Plants can flower in two years from seed[138]. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Flowers have an unpleasant odor.
Seed - best sown in a shaded cold frame as soon as it is ripe[134, 200]. Stored seed should be sown in late winter or early spring. Seed usually germinates within 1 - 3 months at 15°c. Another report says that seeds produce a root after the first cold stratification but no shoot is produced until after a second winter[138], whilst yet another report says that the seed can take 3 years to germinate[238]. The seedlings are prone to damp off and must therefore be watered with care and given plenty of fresh air[138]. The young plants need to be overwintered in a cold frame for the first year and can then be planted out in late spring. It is very important that the pots become neither too dry nor too wet[138]. Division with care when the plants die down after flowering[200]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the following spring.

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Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Trillium grandiflorumWhite Trillium, Large Flower Trillium, White Trillium, Large Flower Wakerobin, Large Flowered Tril12
Trillium kamtschaticum 12
Trillium ovatumWakerobin, Pacific trillium, Oettinger's trillium, Hibberson's trillium11
Trillium pendulum 01
Trillium sessileToadshade21
Trillium smallii 10
Trillium tschonoskii 12
Trillium undulatumPainted Trillium11
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Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
Ed Barrett Wed Aug 20 2008
Is this possibly the lily used in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as an aphrodisiac?
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Subject : Trillium erectum  

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