IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This native perennial plant is 2-5' tall. It has a stout central stem that is unbranched, except near the inflorescence. The alternate leaves tend to occur near the base of the plant, although a few smaller leaves occur along the upper portion of the stem. These leaves are long and strap-like, rather stiff in texture, and up to 2½' long and 2½" across. They are narrowly lanceolate, often curve downward, and have parallel venation. There are widely scattered, but stiff, teeth along the margins. The base of leaves clasp or wrap around the stalk. The entire plant is bluish or greyish green, and quite hairless. At the apex of the central stem, and sometimes from the axils of the upper leaves, occurs a long-stalked inflorescence. This consists of several prickly balls of flowers that are individually about ½–1" across. These whitish green balls contain numerous small white flowers that are individually surrounded by prickly bracts. A flower consists of 5 white petals, a divided white pistil, and several white stamens with light brown anthers. Each ball of flowers is subtended by a star-like rosette of small leaves. These flowers have a sickly honey-like scent in bright sunlight.  The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer, and the balls of flowers remain attractive for about 2 months. The root system consists of a central taproot. After blooming, a plant will gradually die down, but one or more offsets will develop at its base. Thus, a small clump of plants will eventually form.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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