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This herbaceous perennial plant is about ½–1½' tall. It consists of a loose cluster of basal leaves on long petioles and a flowering stalk with a few alternate leaves. The basal leaves are up to 4" long and across; they are palmately cleft into about 5 deep lobes, which are in turn divided into 2-3 shallow secondary lobes. These leaves are usually sparsely pubescent and they may have a few dentate teeth along the margins. Their petioles are pubescent or hairy and rather stout. The alternate leaves are clustered near the base of the flowering stalk and they are few in number; their appearance is similar to the basal leaves. Both the basal and alternate leaves are pale greyish green to green. The flowering stalk is more or less erect, terete, stout, and rather fleshy. This stalk is whitish green or whitish red and it is usually covered with fine white hairs; less often, it is glabrous. A raceme of flowers about 3-8" long occurs at the apex of this stalk; each raceme has 6-24 flowers. Each flower is about ¾–1" across, consisting of 5 petal-like sepals, 4 petals, 3 inner pistils, and stamens. The sepals spread outward from the center of the flower and they are usually some shade of purple or blue-violet; far less often, they are white. The upper sepal forms a long nectar spur behind the rest of the flower; this spur angles upward and it is fairly straight. A few cobwebby hairs may occur along the nectar spur and the posterior surface of the sepals. The upper two petals are quite small and usually white toward the base; they extend backward into the nectar spur. The lower two petals are quite hairy and usually purple or blue-violet like the sepals. These small petals surround the whitish opening that leads to the nectar spur. The pedicels are up to ¾" long and they are usually pubescent. The blooming period occurs during the late spring, lasting about 3 weeks. Each fertile flower is replaced by three spreading follicles (a seed capsule that splits open along one side). Each follicle is oblongoid and angular, terminating in a short beak; it contains several chunky seeds. The root system is tuberous and can form clonal offsets. Cultivation


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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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