IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This perennial wildflower is 2-3½' tall and either unbranched or sparingly branched. The central stem and any lateral stems are medium green, terete, and sparsely short-pubescent. The alternate leaves are trifoliate; their petioles are 2-6" long, somewhat angular, medium green, and sparsely short-pubescent. At the base of each petiole, there is a pair of stipules about 8 mm. (0.3") long; they are linear-lanceolate in shape and early-deciduous. The leaflets of the trifoliate leaves are 2-4' long and 1-2" across; they are lanceolate-ovate to ovate in shape, while their margins are smooth (entire) and slightly ciliate. The bases of these leaflets are rounded, while their tips are rather slender and pointed. The upper leaflet surface is medium green and sparsely short-pubescent to glabrous, while the lower leaflet surface is pale to medium green and sparsely short-pubescent. Leaflet venation is pinnate. The terminal leaflets have petiolules (basal stalklets) about ½-1" long, while the petiolules of the lateral leaflets are less than 1/8" in length. Both axillary and terminal racemes of flowers are produced on peduncles about 2-8" in length. These racemes are 2-6" long and spike-like in appearance; the density of flowers along each raceme is intermediate. The central stalk of each raceme is pale green and sparsely covered with short fine pubescence. Each flower is about ¼" long and relatively narrow in shape, consisting of 5 blue, purple, or nearly white petals, a short-tubular calyx with 5 teeth, and the reproductive organs. The petals form an upright banner, a pair of forward-projecting wings, and a small keel that is largely hidden by the wings. At the base of the banner, there is a small patch of yellow with fine purple veins. The calyx is pale green to pale purplish yellow and sparsely short-pubescent. The pedicels of the flowers are very short (less than 1/8" in length). The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, lasting about 1 month. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by short seedpods about 8-12 mm. long. These seedpods are obovoid, somewhat compressed (flattened), and asymmetric (more curved on one side than the other); they are single-seeded. Individual seeds are 4-6 mm. long, reniform (kidney-shaped), and somewhat compressed, becoming dark brown at maturity. The root system is rhizomatous, often forming clonal colonies of plants.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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