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Description

This perennial plant consists of 1 or 2 basal leaves and a single-flowered inflorescence up to 6" tall. The basal leaves are 2½-6" long and ½-2" across; they are ascending to erect, elliptic-lanceolate in shape, and smooth (entire) along their margins. The upper leaf surface is mottled pale green and brown or greenish brown, while the lower surface is solid medium green; both surfaces are glabrous and the lower surface is often glaucous. The petioles of these leaves are relatively long, but they are located mostly or entirely underneath the ground surface. Immature shoots are single-leaved and they produce no flowers, while mature shoots have two leaves and they are single-flowered. Immature shoots are more common than mature shoots. The inflorescence has a long flowering stalk that is terete, glabrous, and light green to pale reddish brown. This stalk is mostly erect or ascending, but it nods downward at its tip where the flower occurs. The nodding flower is ¾-1¼" long, consisting of 6 yellow tepals, 6 stamens, and an ovary with 3 erect stigmata. Initially, the tepals are barely separated from each other, but as the flower matures they become strongly recurved, exposing the reproductive organs. These tepals are narrowly elliptic-lanceolate in shape, and they are often tinted red or reddish brown along their outer sides. The stamens are about ½" long and their anthers are yellow or yellow-brown. The blooming period occurs during mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by obovoid seed capsules that are about ½" in length or a little longer. These capsules are glabrous and their apices are truncate to rounded. At maturity, these capsules divide into 3 parts to release their seeds. The root system consists of a corm with fibrous roots underneath, and 0-3 stolons. The stolons extend below the leaf litter, creating clonal offshoots from the mother plant. As a result, colonies of plants are often formed, consisting largely of immature shoots.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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