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This native perennial shrub produces little-branched canes up to 6' long during the first year. These canes are initially erect, but they eventually arch sideways and downward – their tips sometimes reach the ground. First-year canes are vegetative and do not produce flowers and fruit. They are initially green, hairless, and glaucous, but later turn brown and woody during the winter. Scattered along the length of each cane are prickles that are short and curved. During the second year, these canes develop short branches that terminate in erect cymes or short racemes of flowers. Along the length of these canes, there are alternate compound leaves. These compound leaves are usually trifoliate; rarely are they palmate with 5 leaflets. The leaflets are up to 3" long and 2" across. They are cordate-ovate or ovate in shape and doubly serrate along the margins; some leaflets may be shallowly cleft. The upper surface of each leaflet has strong pinnate venation, while its lower surface is white tomentose (covered with white hairs that are very short and appressed). The terminate leaflet has a short slender petiole, while the lateral leaflets are sessile, or nearly so. The flowers are bunched tightly together on the cymes/racemes. Each flower is about ½" across, consisting of 5 white petals, 5 green sepals, and numerous stamens that surround the multiple green carpels and their styles. The petals are elliptic or oblong, while the sepals are triangular-shaped and spreading; the petals are about the same length as the sepals. The blooming period occurs during the late spring or very early summer and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Each flower is replaced by a compound drupe that is ovoid and about 1/3" long when fully mature. This compound drupe is initially white, later becomes red, and finally turns black-purple when it is mature. Each drupe consists of multiple drupelets, each drupelet containing a single seed. The fleshy drupes are sweet and slightly tart in flavor; they detach cleanly and easily from their receptacles. The root system consists of a woody branching taproot. Vegetative offsets are often produced by the canes rooting at their tips. Cultivation


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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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