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Description

This native wildflower is 1-3' tall and unbranched or sparingly so, except for short leafy stems that develop from the axils of the leaves along the central stem. It is usually a short-lived perennial, although some plants may persist for only 1 or 2 years. The central stem is brown to reddish purple, 4-angled, and densely pubescent. The opposite leaves are up to 3½" long and 1" across, medium green, and lanceolate to narrowly lanceolate. The margins of the leaves are usually serrated with low teeth, although some of the upper leaves (and bracts) have smooth margins. The central stem produces two or more dense whorls of flowers in the upper portion of each plant. The uppermost whorl of flowers is terminal, while the lower whorls of flowers develop from the axils of the upper pairs of leaves. Each flower is about ¾–1" long, consisting of a cream-colored corolla with purple spots and a tubular calyx with 5 triangular teeth. The corolla is divided into an upper lip and a lower lip; they are both long and narrow. The upper lip is keeled and finely hairy on the top, while the lower lip terminates into 3 small lobes (the middle lobe is the largest of the three). Inside the corolla near the upper lip, there are 2 long stamens with brown anthers and a slender style with a divided tip. There are also 2 short stamens that are sterile. The tubular calyx is green and finely pubescent. Underneath each whorl of flowers, there are several leafy bracts. The upper surface of each bract is pink, lavender, or nearly white (in whole or part). The lower surface of each bract is light green. Aside from their showy colors and location underneath the flowers, these bracts are very similar to the leaves. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about 1-2 months. While individual corollas soon wither away, the showy bracts remain attractive for a long time afterward. Each flower is replaced by 4 small nutlets, which are ovoid and smooth. The root system consists of a taproot. This wildflower reproduces by reseeding itself.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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