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This native shrub is about 6-12' tall, branching irregularly and somewhat sparingly (especially in shaded areas). The trunk and/or larger branches have bark that is mostly grey and slight rough-textured, while smaller branches have bark that is smooth with longitudinal streaks of black and light grey. Young twigs tend to be smooth and reddish brown. The opposite leaves are trifoliate; they have petioles about 1-5" long. Individual leaflets are up to 2½" long and 1" across; they are ovate in shape and finely serrated along their margins. Each leaflet has a rounded to wedge-shaped bottom and tapers to a tip that is short and slender; the upper surface of each leaflet is medium to dark green and hairless, while the lower surface is light green and pubescent. The terminal leaflet has a stalk (or petiolule) up to 1" long, while the 2 lateral leaflets are nearly sessile. Drooping clusters of flowers develop from the axils of the compound leaves. Each flower is about 1/3" long, 1/4" across, and bell-shaped; it is have 5 outer sepals, 5 inner petals, several stamens, and a pistil. Initially, both the sepals and petals are white; shortly later the sepals become light green or dull pink. The slender pedicels are a little longer than the flowers. The blooming period occurs during mid- to late spring and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Each fertile flower is replaced by a papery 3-celled seed capsule up to 3" long and 2" across; this capsule is obovoid or ovoid in shape with 3-angular lobes. Immature capsules are green during the summer, but they become light brown during the fall. At this time, the seeds can be made to rattle inside their capsule; there is a single seed per cell. The seeds are brown, smooth, and about ¼" across. The root system can form vegetative offsets from underground runners. Occasionally, colonies of shrubs are formed.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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