Comprehensive Description

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Description

This wildflower is a summer annual about 1½–3' tall that is either unbranched or very sparingly branched. The central stem is erect, stout, terete, and covered with fuzzy hairs that are white, gray, or brown. Opposite leaves occur along the lower one-third of the stem. The leaves are up to 4" long and ¾" across. They are narrowly elliptic to elliptic or narrowly oblanceolate to oblanceolate in shape; their margins are smooth. At the base, the leaves are sessile or they have short petioles; their outer tips are blunt. The upper leaf surface is medium green, white along the margins, and sparsely covered with silky hairs. The lower leaf surface is pale green and more densely covered with silky hairs. The central stem is slightly swollen and reddish at the bases of the opposite leaves. The central stem terminates in a spike of flowers about 1½–4" long and there are usually 1-3 lateral spikes of flowers that are either sessile or on short peduncles. These lateral spikes are usually shorter in length than the terminal spike. The terminal spike and its peduncle often lean to one side toward the apex of the plant. Each spike is densely packed with white woolly flowers that are arranged in 5 spirals (if the spike is long enough to determine this). Individual flowers are initially conical in shape, but they soon swell to become shaped like a short vase with a short narrow neck. The exterior of the flower is dominated by a white woolly calyx that is about 4-6 mm. long and across at maturity. The calyx has 5 tiny teeth at its apex that are cream-colored or pink. Inserted within the apex of the calyx are 5 stamens and a style; there are no petals. The filaments of the stamens are joined together to form an inner tubular structure that contains the ovary (or seed capsule). The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts 2-3 months. Each flower matures into a single-seeded cottony fruit that often develops a pair of crests along its lower sides. A crest consists of a succession of dentate teeth. The cottony fruits are blown about by the wind. The seeds are 1.0–1.5 mm. long, ovoid, somewhat flattened, and brown. The root system consists of a taproot. This wildflower reproduces by reseeding itself. Cultivation

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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