IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This native perennial plant is about 1-2' tall, forming a single central stem with occasional short side stems. The alternate light green leaves are up to 6" long and 1½" across, and become smaller in size as they ascend the stem. They are lanceolate or narrowly lanceolate, and sparsely distributed overall. The lowest leaves clasp the stem, while the middle and upper leaves are sessile or have short petioles. They have smooth edges and texture, with faint parallel veins. The central stem terminates in a raceme of flowers, often with a half-dozen or more blooming at the same time. One or two smaller sides stem may each produce racemes of flowers as well. Each flower is about 1½" long and 1" across, consisting of 3 greenish white sepals and 3 white petals. The upper sepal and two upper petals form a hood over the pollen- and nectar-bearing organs of the flower. The lateral sepals are similar in shape, but spread outward. The large white lower petal, or lip, is divided into 3 parts and heavily fringed. There is a long nectar spur that arches downward from the back of the flower. During the day, the flowers have a slight fragrance, which probably becomes stronger at night. The blooming period occurs during early to mid-summer, and lasts about a month. There is a dense cluster of roots that are fleshy and tuberous. They form a symbiotic relationship with endomycorrhizal bacteria, and rarely form offshoots. The tiny seeds are easily carried aloft by the wind, and can travel a considerable distance. Cultivation

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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