IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This perennial plant is up to 8" tall and unbranched, except at the base. Both fertile and infertile shoots occur; they form low mats of vegetation across the ground, although fertile shoots with flowers are taller. The succulent stems are terete, light green or pink, and glabrous or finely short-pubescent. The lower leaves of fertile shoots and all leaves of infertile shoots are up to ¾" long and ½" across. These leaves are light green, obovate to nearly orbicular in shape, smooth along their margins, and glabrous; they are whorled in groups of 3 along the stems. The upper leaves of fertile shoots are up to ½" long and ¼" across. These latter leaves are light green, rhombic-elliptic in shape, smooth along their margins, and glabrous; they are either alternate or whorled in groups of 3 along the stems. Both types of leaves are fleshy. The stems of fertile shoots terminate in cymes of flowers. Each flat-topped cyme has about 3 (less often 4) widely spreading branches of flowers; these branches are white to light green, terete, and finely short-pubescent. There are usually 10-25 flowers per cyme; these flowers are sessile, or nearly so. At the base of each flower, there is a leafy bract that resembles the upper leaves of fertile shoots, except it is smaller in size. Each flower is about ½" across or a little more, consisting of 4 narrow white petals, 4 light green sepals, 8 stamens, and 4 erect to ascending white pistils (or carpels) in the center. The anthers of the stamens have a silvery appearance while they are immature, but they later become red or purple. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 1 month for a colony of plants. The flowers are slightly fragrant. Afterwards, each flower is replaced by 4 divergent follicles containing the seeds. These follicles are narrowly lanceoloid in shape and 4-5 mm. (a little less than ¼") in length. About 6-12 tiny seeds (individually about 1.0 mm. long & 0.5 mm. across) are contained in each follicle. At maturity, each follicle splits open along one side, releasing the seeds; they are small enough to be carried aloft by the wind. The root system is fibrous. When the sprawling stems establish contact with moist ground, they can form the rootlets of clonal plants at their nodes. Thus, reproduction is by seed or clonal offsets. Cultivation

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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