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This inconspicuous little plant is easy to overlook, except where it occurs in sizable colonies along the woodland floor. The delicate foliage is attractive and resembles moss or a Galium sp. (Bedstraw). It isn't immediately obvious when False Mermaid is blooming as the flowers are inconspicuous – careful inspection at the right time during the spring will reveal the green sepals, tiny white petals, and the stamens. It is fairly easy to identify this plant because each flower has only 3 sepals and 3 petals, while the alternate leaves are pinnately compound. Other woodland plants with a similar appearance include Galium spp. (Bedstraws) and Ellisia nyctelea (Aunt Lucy). Bedstraws have flowers with 4 petals and their simple leaves occur in whorls. Aunt Lucy has pinnately compound leaves, but its flowers have 5 white petals and its foliage is more or less hairy.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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