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All trillium species belong to the Liliaceae (lily) family and are rhizomatous herbs with unbranched stems. Trillium plants produce no true leaves or stems above ground. The “stem” is actually just an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces tiny, scale-like leaves (cataphylls). The above-ground plant is technically a flowering scape, and the leaf-like structures are actually bracts subtending the flower. Despite their morphological origins, the bracts have external and internal structure similar to that of a leaf, function in photosynthesis, and most authors refer to them as leaves.
Trillium nivale is very dwarfed, with a short, thick rhizome from which a sheath (cataphyll) enclosed scape (stalk of the inflorescence) emerges from the ground to 3 to 5 centimeters tall with a single, terminal flower on an erect, becoming strongly recurved (when in fruit) pedicel, 1 to 2 centimeters long; leaves (actually bracts) three, dark green, definitely petioled, elliptic-ovate or ovate, obtuse to slightly acuminate, 1.5 to 5 centimeters long; petals three, white, very showy, recurved to erect, elliptic-ovate or ovate, obtuse to slightly acuminate, 1.5 to 4 centimeters long, recurved at the middle to form a very funnel-shaped corolla; sepals three, green, spreading, shorter than the petals; fruit a berry, green, indented-globose; brown seeds.Trilliums are divided into two major groups, pedicellate and sessile trilliums. In the pedicellate trilliums, the flower sits upon a pedicel that extends from the whorl of bracts, either “erect” above the bracts, or “nodding” recurved under the bracts. In the sessile trilliums there is no pedicel and the flower appears to arise directly from the bracts. Trillium nivale is in the pedicellate group.
Trillium nivale flowers from mid-March to early April. The species occurs in a range of habitats in limestone-derived soils, calcareous glacial drift or loess deposits. Snow trilliums occur in two different niche habitats that explains there sporadic occurrences. In one habitat, they grow on limestone crevices, limestone talus slopes, bare, sliding soils on the top of limestone cliffs and very steep loess deposits. In these habitats, the soils are sparsely vegetated, if at all with no accumulating organic matter such as leaf mold and litter. In snow trillium’s other niche, it occurs on floodplains at the highest points of flooding were the substrate is gravely or sandy and not packed clay soils and generally calcareous.Like other Trillium species, T. nivale has a one-leaf vegetative stage followed by a three-leaf vegetative (juvenile) stage. After twelve or more years of vegetative growth, the plant finally reaches its three-leaf reproductive (flowering) stage. In some populations, there may be ten or more one-leaf plants to each flowering plant. The latter has an indefinite life span of many years, often living for decades. (Source: en.wikipedia.org)