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Description

This native perennial plant is up to 6" tall (rarely taller), consisting of a basal rosette of leaves and an erect stem bearing the inflorescence. Species in this genus are dioecious, with individual plants bearing either staminate or pistallate flowers. The basal leaves are up to 4" long and 2" across. They have long petioles and are obovate (spoon-like) in shape, with smooth margins. There are 3-5 conspicuious veins on their upper surface, while their lower surface is densely hairly. The central stem is covered with numerous white hairs. Sparse alternate leaves clasp this stem, which are lanceolate and greatly reduced in size. At the apex is a small cluster of about 5-6 pistillate or staminate flowerheads. Each head is about ¼–½" long, and has a fluffy white appearance. There is no noticeable floral scent. The flowers are normally pollinated by wind or insects, but are also capable of self-pollination. The blooming period occurs during mid- to late spring and lasts about 3 weeks. The achenes develop into small brown nutlets with white resinous dots, to which small tufts of white hairs are attached. They are distributed by the wind. The flower-bearing part of the plant dies down during the summer, but the rosette of basal leaves persists. Occasionally, stolons emerge from the basal rosette that develop plantlets a short distance from the mother plant. There is a strong tendency to form colonies, sometimes consisting of all male or female plants. This is partly the result of vegetative reproduction, and partly the result of allelopathic chemicals that inhibit the germination and development of neighboring plants.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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