IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This is a shrub or small tree up to 15' tall (rarely to 30' tall) with a single trunk up to ½' across (rarely to 1' across). Farkleberry is typically a much-branched shrub about 3-8' tall as the marginal habitats where it occurs restrict its growth and development. The trunk bark is brown, gray, or red, or some combination these colors; it is thin and prone to shredding. Branches and older twigs are gray and relatively smooth, while young twigs are reddish brown. The branches and twigs of this shrub are often crooked. Young shoots are light green to reddish green and usually pubescent, otherwise they are glabrous. Alternate leaves occur along the young twigs and shoots. These leaves are 1-3" long, ½-1½" across, and somewhat leathery in texture; they are ovate, obovate, or broadly elliptic in shape, while their margins are smooth (entire) or minutely serrated. The leaf tips are either rounded or taper abruptly to blunt points, while the leaf bases are usually wedge-shaped. Leaf venation is pinnate; the secondary veins are widely separated and relatively sparse across the leaf surface. The upper leaf surface is medium green, glabrous, and somewhat shiny, while the lower leaf surface is pale green and glabrous to finely pubescent (fine hairs are most likely to occur along the central veins of the leaves). Racemes of nodding flowers up to 2" long are produced near the tips of the twigs of the preceding year. These racemes are produced individually or in small clusters of 2-5. The central stalks of these racemes are light green and finely pubescent, while the pedicels are about ½" long, light green, and glabrous (or nearly so). Each flower is about ¼" long and similarly across, consisting of a short calyx with 5 broad teeth, a bell-shaped corolla that is nearly globoid in shape, 10 inserted stamens, and a pistil with a single style. The calyx is light green and glabrous, while the corolla is usually white (less often pinkish white). The corolla also has 5 small lobes along its outer rim that are recurved. In addition to the flowers, the racemes have leafy to scale-like bracts that are less than 1" in length. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer for about 3 weeks. Afterwards, fertile flowers are replaced by globoid berries that become 6-8 mm. across at maturity during the late summer or fall. Mature berries are black and shiny, often persisting into the winter. The interior of the berries is mealy and dry, varying in flavor from bitter to sweet. Each berry contains up to 10 seeds. The seeds are stony, shiny, and variously shaped; they are about 2 mm. in length. This small tree or shrub reproduces by reseeding itself. In Illinois, Farkleberry is late-deciduous, while in areas further to the south its leaves can be evergreen.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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