Declines of Trillium wildflower populations have been attributed to white-tailed deer browsing without exploring the role of soil fertility. To explore relationships among Trillium species, soil fertility, and deer, samples were collected for analysis from thirty-seven randomly selected forested sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (in spring 2003) containing one of the following Trillium species: T. erectum, T. grandiflorum, or T. undulatum. Data were collected from 1-m radius plots centered on the first Trillium shoot observed at each site. Soil chemistry, foliar chemistry, and shoot height data were collected from the plots. Deer pellet groups were counted along four, 2 × 100-m transects in the four cardinal directions from the plot center. Pearson correlation and principal component analysis were used to examine relationships between soil chemistry and deer pellet groups, and shoot density and heights of Trillium. Trillium erectum and T. grandiflorum were found on sites rich in calcium and their foliage refected this. Trillium undulatum was found on sites with much lower calcium supplies. Strong correlations between numbers of pellet groups and Trillium heights were only obtained for T. undulatum. Results suggested that deer presence may not be the only factor adversely affecting Trillium populations and that soil calcium status also may play a role. This information should assist current discussions about the use of Trillium as indicators of deer numbers.
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