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This perennial wildflower is 4-16" tall (including the flowering stalk) and unbranched. The central stalk is light green, glabrous (or nearly so), and terete. Toward the bottom of the stalk, there is a single prominent leaf about 2-6" long and ½-1½" across; it is oblanceolate, elliptic, or oblong in shape, smooth along the margins, medium green, and glabrous. Its leaf venation is parallel with a conspicuous central vein. Above this leaf, the remaining leaves are arranged alternately along the central stalk; they are much reduced in size, often resembling bracts. The central stalk terminates in a floral raceme about ¾-3" long; there are 5-20 greenish white flowers per raceme. The density of these flowers along the central stalk of the raceme is more or less moderate; they are nodding to ascending and often twisted to the side. Individual flowers are about 1/3" across and 1/2" long, consisting of 3 greenish white petals, 3 petaloid sepals that are greenish white, a rather prominent green ovary, and other reproductive organs. At the base of each flower, there is an ascending lanceolate bract that is less than ½" in length. The upper 2 petals and upper sepal form a small hood over the nectar opening at the center of the flower, while 2 lateral sepals project forward and form a pair of wings. The lower petal forms a lip with 3 tiny lobes at its tip, while the posterior of the lower petal forms a long nectar spur (up to ½" long) that is often slightly swollen toward its tip; this spur usually curves gently downward, although sometimes it is nearly straight. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Sometimes there is a slight floral fragrance. In the absence of cross-pollination, the flowers are self-fertile, forming ovoid seed capsules about ½" long. The sessile seed capsules are ascending to nearly erect. Eventually, these capsules split open to release numerous tiny seeds that are distributed by the wind. The root system is fibrous.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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