Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
DescriptionThis 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.