IUCN threat status:

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Description

This native perennial wildflower is 1½–3' tall. Each plant has a central stem that develops from the rootstock (less often, there are 2-3 such stems), which branches from below the middle. During the flowering period, short secondary stems develop from the axils of the leaves. These stems are terete, mostly light green, and pubescent; sometimes they have longitudinal ridges. The alternate leaves are up to 3½" long and 1" across; they are lanceolate, oblanceolate, or narrowly ovate with margins that are slightly toothed or smooth. The upper surface of each leaf is medium green and hairless, while the lower surface is light green and finely short-pubescent. Sometimes there are longer hairs along the central vein on the underside of each leaf. The leaves are sessile against their stems and their outer tips are somewhat blunt. The upper stems terminate in elongated panicles of flowerheads. Each flowerhead spans about ½" across, consisting of 15-25 white ray florets and a similar number of disk florets. The disk florets are initially pale yellow, but they later become reddish purple; each disk floret is tubular in shape with 5 spreading lobes along its upper rim. Surrounding the base of each flowerhead, there is an overlapping series of small floral bracts (phyllaries). These floral bracts are linear in shape, evenly green from top to bottom, and appressed or slightly spreading. Each flowerhead has a short peduncle up to 1" long. In addition to the flowerheads, the branches of the panicle have numerous leafy bracts. These leafy bracts are similar in appearance to the leaves, except smaller in size. The blooming period occurs from late summer into the fall and lasts about 1-2 months. Each flowerhead is replaced by a dense cluster of small achenes. Each achene is bullet-shaped with a small tuft of white hairs at its apex. The achenes are distributed by the wind. The root system is fibrous and long-rhizomatous. Small colonies of plants are occasionally formed.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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