IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This native perennial plant is about 1-2' tall. The basal leaves occur in whorls from long stalks that emerge out of the ground. They are divided into 3-5 lobes and have dentate margins. From each whorl of the basal leaves often emerges a second whorl of leaves. These secondary leaves are smaller than the basal leaves, but otherwise similar in form. From each whorl of the secondary leaves emerges a long stalk bearing a single white flower. In less mature plants, sometimes the basal leaves produce flowering stalks, rather than whorls of secondary leaves. Sometimes there are small alternate leaves sparsely distributed along the flowering stalks, but they are more narrow and less lobed than the whorled lower leaves. There are scattered white hairs on both the leaves and their stalks. Each flower is about ¾" across, and has 5 petal-like sepals that often fail to open fully. In the center, is a small green cone that is surrounded by numerous stamens with yellow anthers. As the flower withers, the green cone develops into an elongated fruit that resembles a cylindrical green thimble up to 1½" long, hence the name of the plant. This thimble is at least twice as long as it is wide. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-summer and lasts about a month. There is no floral scent. The thimble-like fruits develop during the summer, and then become transformed into cottony tufts during the fall. These cottony tufts contain scattered dark seeds and persist during the winter. The seeds are distributed by the wind. The root system consists of a taproot and tough slender rhizomes, which can form vegetative offsets. This plant produces an allelopathic substance, protoanemonin, which inhibits seed germination and seedling growth of many species of plants.

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Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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