IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This native plant is a summer annual that becomes 2-5' tall, branching occasionally. The round stems are glabrous and succulent, pale green to pale reddish green, and somewhat translucent. They are rather fragile and break easily. The alternate leaves are up to 5" long and 2½" across, although they are usually about half this size. The leaves are ovate, thin-textured, and hairless. There are low broad teeth along their margins. While the stems are often shiny, the leaves have a dull upper surface. The slender petioles are up to 2" long and usually shorter than the blades of the leaves. From the axils of the upper leaves, there occurs small clusters of 1-3 orange flowers. These flowers are held horizontally on drooping pedicels. Each flower is about 1" long and has a conical shape with upper and lower lips. There are 3 sepals and 5 petals (although this is difficult to discern). Two lateral sepals are small and membrananous; they are light green to light yellow and are located behind the upper lip. The third sepal forms the conical posterior of the flower, including the small nectar spur. This portion of the flower is typically light orange and shiny; the nectar spur usually bends forward to a position underneath the rest of the flower. The petals form the front of the flower and are usually dark orange with reddish streaks or brown dots. One petal forms the upper lip, which is curved upward, while 2 fused petals form the lower lip. The lower lip often is divided into 2 lobes and functions as a landing pad for visiting insects. There are also 2 smaller lateral petals between the upper and lower lips of the flower. A cluster of stamens with white anthers lies underneath the ovary near the upper lip. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall, and lasts about 2 months. There is no floral scent. During the fall, insignificant cleistogamous flowers form seed capsules with fertile seeds without any need for cross-pollination. These oblong seed capsules are divided into 5 sections, which split apart, flinging the large seeds a considerable distance. The root system consists of a shallow branching taproot. This plant often forms colonies by reseeding itself.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers


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