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This short perennial plant is about ½–1' tall and unbranched. Different varieties have been described, some of which are believed to be native, including this one. The native varieties are said to be taller and more erect, with leaves that are lanceolate or wedge-shaped at the base. The plant that is considered here has an erect central stem. This stem has white hairs along its four angular ridges. The opposite leaves are up to 2" long and ¾" across. They are broadly lanceolate or ovate, with short petioles, and have scattered white hairs along the central vein on their undersides. Their margins may be smooth, or have scattered blunt teeth. The stem terminates in a short spike of flowers. Each tubular flower is about ½" long and divided into 2 lips. The upper lip is light purple and functions as a hood, while the lower lip is white and fringed. The lower lip also has two lateral lobes that are smaller and light purple. The calyx is light green or reddish and quite hairy along the edges. There is no noticeable floral scent. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer and lasts about a month. Each flower produces 4 tiny brown, angular, finely ridged seeds, which are enclosed in the persistent calyx. Interestingly, the seeds may be distributed by raindrop ballistics – when a raindrop strikes the ridged calyx tube, this causes it to bend and rebound, flinging the seeds. The root system consists of a short central taproot.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers


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