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This perennial herbaceous plant forms a rosette of basal leaves spanning ¾-2½' across. The basal leaves are ascending to widely spreading (usually the latter). Individually, these leaves are 4-18" long, ½-2¼" across, and sessile; they are oblong-lanceolate, oblong-oblanceolate, or oblong-elliptic in shape and their margins are finely dentate (denticulate) and, to a lesser extent, smooth (entire). The basal leaves are often folded upward along their margins, otherwise they are flat. The leaf surfaces are pale green, glabrous, and occasionally glaucous; sometimes they are speckled purple. The texture of these leaves is slightly succulent and stiff. At maturity, an erect flowering stalk (2-6' in length) develops from the rosette of basal leaves. This stalk is pale to medium green, terete, glabrous, and often glaucous. Along its length underneath the inflorescence, there are widely separated leafy bracts about ½-4" long that become smaller as they ascend the stalk. These bracts are linear-lanceolate, ascending to erect, and pale green. Toward the upper end of this stalk, there is a spike of 10-60 flowers about ½-2' long. Each flower is ¾-1¼" long, approximately tubular in shape, whitish green or yellowish green, and ascending to erect. Each flower has a tubular corolla with 6 convex ridges, 6 narrowly triangular lobes that are held erect, 6 strongly exerted stamens, and an inferior ovary with exerted style. The tubular body of the corolla is about 2-3 times as long as its lobes; they are both pale green and glabrous. The filaments of the stamens are golden yellow; the long slender anthers are white, becoming brown and deciduous with age. The style is also golden yellow, except for its 3-lobed stigma, which is white. At the base of each flower, there is a membranous-leafy bract up to ½" long. The flowers are mostly sessile, although a few lower flowers may have very short pedicels. The blooming period occurs from early- to mid-summer. The flowers have a slight to moderate fragrance that is sweet and fruity. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by 3-celled seed capsules that become about ½" long at maturity. These capsules are globoid-ovoid in shape and angular. Within each cell of a capsule, there are 2 rows of flattened seeds. Mature seeds are black and half-orbicular in shape; they can be blown about by the wind. The root system consists of a bulbous caudex with fibrous roots below.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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