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This native parasitic plant is 4-18" tall. Small plants are often unbranched, but large plants are paniculately branched with stiff ascending stems. These stems are initially cream, tan, or purple-striped, but they turn brown with age. The surface of each stem is mostly glabrous, but sometimes it is slightly pubescent. The leaves are reduced to insignificant scales; they are located underneath some of the flowers. Along the length of the stems are alternate flowers; the lower stems have cleistogamous (self-fertile) flowers, while the upper stems have perfect flowers that are usually sterile. The cleistogamous flowers are small and bud-like in shape, while the perfect flowers have tubular corollas with short calyces.  The corolla of a perfect flower is about 1/3" (8 mm.) in length, cream- and purple-colored, with 4 short lobes along its outer rim. Each calyx is cream-colored with 5 purple-striped teeth; it is much shorter than the corolla of a perfect flower. Each perfect flower has a single style and four stamens; the latter are hidden within the corolla. The blooming period occurs from late summer into the fall. There is no noticeable floral scent. Each fertile flower is replaced by a small ovoid seed capsule about ¼" (6 mm.) long; it contains numerous tiny seeds that can be blown about by the wind. The root system is fibrous. Sometimes large colonies of this plant can be found.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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