IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This native plant is a winter annual. It consists of a small rosette of basal leaves, from which one or more flowering spikes develop. The basal leaves are up to 6" long and 3" across, although they are more typically about one-half this size. They can assume various shapes, including oblanceolate, obovate, and oval. The medium green leaves have 3-5 parallel veins, smooth and ciliate margins, and blunt tips; they taper gradually to winged petioles, which are often reddish. The upper surface of each leaf has white hairs, while the lower surface is woolly pubescent with longer white hairs along the veins.  The flowering stalks are about 4-8" tall and unbranched. The upper two-thirds of each stalk consists of a cylindrical floral spike that is densely covered with small flowers and their bracts, while the lower one-third is naked (lacking bracts or cauline leaves). The naked portion of each stalk is terete, densely hairy, and often reddish toward the bottom. The flowers are unisexual, bisexual, or sterile. Each flower is about 1/8" long; it has a narrow corolla with 4 erect lobes and a calyx with 4 sepals. The chaffy corolla becomes tan or brown with maturity, while the sepals are green and hairy. The bracts of the flowers are green and hairy like the sepals, except they are even smaller in size. The blooming period occurs from mid-spring to early summer. The flowers are wind-pollinated. Each fertile flower is replaced by an oblongoid seed capsule that splits open around the middle to release its seeds. The root system consists of a taproot. This plant spreads by reseeding itself.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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