Trillium grandiflorum as well as other trilliums are a favored food of white-tailed deer. Indeed if trilliums are available deer will seek these plants, with a preference for T. grandiflorum, to the exclusion of others. In the course of normal browsing, deer consume larger individuals, leaving shorter ones behind. This information can be used to assess deer density and its effect on understory growth in general.
When foraging intensity increases, individuals become shorter each growing season due to the reduction in energy reserves from less photosynthetic production. One study determined that the ideal deer density in northeastern Illinois, based on T. grandiflorum as an indicator of overall understory health, is 4 to 6 animals per square kilometer. This is based on a 12 to 14 cm stem height as an acceptable healthy height. In practice, deer densities as high as 30 deer per square kilometers are known to occur in restricted or fractured habitat where natural control mechanisms (that is, predators like wolves) are lacking. Such densities, if maintained over more than a few years, can be very damaging to the understory and lead to extinction of some local understory plant populations.
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