IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This adventive plant is a summer annual about 2-4' tall. It is unbranched, or branches occasionally. The central stem is greenish tan to red, round in circumference, ribbed, and usually hairy; sometimes the lower portion of this stem is hairless. The alternate leaves are up to 4½" long and 2¾" across (excluding the petioles), becoming slightly smaller as they ascend the central stem. They are ovate orelliptic-ovate, smooth or slightly undulate along the margins, and pubescent or hairless. The lower side of each leaf has elevated pinnate veins. The uppermost leaves are smaller, lanceolate, and pubescent. This form of Slender Pigweed has predominately red foliage, although the leaves may be green with blotches of red. The petioles are quite long, causing the leaves to droop downward somewhat; they are often pubescent like the stems.  The upper stem terminates in an elongated panicle of spikes with small reddish flowers. This panicle is up to 1½' long on large plants. From the axils of the upper leaves, there also develops panicles of spikes or simple spikes of flowers that are much shorter than the terminal inflorescence. The individual spikes have a bristly appearance because of the linear bracts surrounding the flowers. Slender Pigweed is usually monoecious with staminate and pistillate flowers on the same plant. Each type of flower has 5 pink sepals and no petals. The sepals are about 2 mm. in length and oblong with short pointed tips. Each staminate flower (male) has 5 stamens, while each pistillate flower (female) has an ovary with 3 styles. Each type of flower is surrounded by several red bracts that are about 3-4 mm. long and linear with long pointed tips. The blooming period occurs during late summer to early fall and lasts about 1-2 months. The flowers are wind-pollinated. Each flower is replaced by a seed that is contained in a bladder-like membrane (utricle). This utricle becomes brown and splits apart to release the seed. The small seeds are flattened, dark brown or black, circular, and shiny. They are produced in great abundance on a robust plant. The root system consists of a taproot that is short and stout; it is often tinted red. This plant spreads by reseeding itself. Cultivation

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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