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This perennial plant is 1½–4' tall, more or less erect, and unbranched. The central stem is light to medium green, terete, glabrous, and sometimes glaucous. The leaves usually occur in whorls of 3-7 along the stem, although some of the upper leaves may occur in pairs or they may alternate individually. Individual leaves are 2½–5" long and ¼–¾" across; they are elliptic in shape, smooth (entire) along their margins, and sessile or nearly so. Leaf venation is parallel. The upper leaf surface is medium green and glabrous, while the lower leaf surface is light-medium or whitish green, glabrous, and sometimes glaucous. Above the terminal leaves of the central stem, there are 1-6 nodding flowers on stalks about 4-8" long (one flower per stalk). These stalks are erect or ascending; they are light to medium green, terete, glabrous, and sometimes glaucous. Each showy flower is about 2-3" long and similarly across, consisting of 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a pistil with a single style. The tepals are yellow-orange to orange-red, purple-spotted, lanceolate in shape, and strongly recurved; the tips of the tepals are located near the base of the flower. The stamens are strongly exserted and slightly spreading; their filaments are light green to nearly white, while their anthers are reddish brown, oblongoid or ellipsoid in shape, and less than ½" in length. The style is strongly exserted and curved slightly upward; it is light yellow to nearly white, except toward the slightly swollen tip, where it is tinted yellow to orange-red. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-summer, lasting about 1 month. There is no noticeable floral scent. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by seedpods. These seedpods are about 1½" long, oblongoid in shape, 3-celled, and glabrous; they split open into 3 parts to release their seeds. Mature seeds are brown, flattened, ovate-deltate in shape, and strongly winged along their margins. The thin papery wings enable the seeds to be carried some distance by gusts of wind. The root system consists of a yellow bulb with fibrous roots below, from which clonal offsets with new bulbs may form.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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