IUCN threat status:

Critically Endangered (CR)

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This wildflower is a short-lived perennial about 2-8" tall, although stolons that creep above or below the ground may be up to 2½' long. The stems are light green to reddish purple, hairy, terete, and slightly succulent. Trifoliate leaves alternate along these stems. The sessile leaflets are ¼-½" long and a little wider across; they are obcordate in shape and their margins are smooth (entire) and ciliate. The upper and lower surfaces of the leaflets are medium green to reddish purple and glabrous to appressed-pubescent; sometimes the lower sides of the central veins are pubescent or hairy. The petioles are about ¾-2" long, light green to reddish purple, hairy, and terete. The base of each petiole is swollen from a pair of fused stipules. The leaflets spread outward in response to light, while they contract inward in response to the absence of light. Flowers are produced either individually or in small umbels of 2-5 from the axils of the leaves and the tips of stems. Each flower is about ¼" across and a little longer in length, consisting of 5 light green to purple sepals, 5 yellow petals, 10 stamens, and a pistil with 5 styles that are fused together at the base. The sepals are lanceolate-oblong in shape and slightly pubescent; they are shorter than the petals. Sometimes the flowers are reddish toward the base of the petals. The pedicels of the flowers are about ¼-1" long, light green to reddish purple, terete, and appressed-pubescent, while the peduncle of an umbel of flowers is similar, except it is longer and more hairy. The blooming period occurs from early summer into the fall, lasting 2-4 months. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by erect seed capsules about ½" long that are narrowly oblongoid-lanceoloid, 5-valved, and short-pubescent. The pedicels of the seed capsules are straight and either erect, ascending, or descending. Each capsule splits open into 5 parts, ejecting the seeds up to 10 feet. The seeds are 1.0-1.5 mm. in length, broadly ellipsoid in shape, somewhat flattened, and brown to reddish brown. Each lateral side of a seed has 7-9 transverse ridges. The root system consists of a fleshy taproot and stolons. This wildflower can reproduce vegetatively by forming rootlets along the nodes of its creeping stolons. Small colonies of plants are often produced.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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