IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This native perennial plant is 2½–4' tall, branching sparingly. The stout central stem is round and covered with fine hooked hairs. The alternate compound leaves are trifoliate and have petioles about 1–2½" long. The leaflets are up to 3½" long and 1" across. A typical leaflet is lanceolate-oblong or lanceolate-ovate, with smooth margins, and a leathery texture. The base of a leaflet is rounded, while the tip is usually blunt. The lower surface is light or whitish green and has prominent veins; there are hooked hairs along the major veins. The central stem terminates in an elongated raceme of flowers about ½–1½' long. Usually, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. Each flower is about 1/3" long (up and down), and either pale purple or white. The two upper petals are larger than the others and well-rounded; when these petals are pale purple, there is a small patch of white near the throat of the flower, which is surrounded by a narrow border of burgundy. There are also two side petals that enclose a lower petal, which project outward. Together, they form a typical pea-shaped flower. The hairy green calyx is divided into 5 lobes of unequal length, while the pedicels of the flowers are slender and hairy. The blooming period usually occurs during mid-summer and lasts about 3 weeks. There is no noticeable floral scent. The flowers are replaced by flat seedpods about 1-3" long that are called 'loments.' These loments have 3-9 segments that are well-rounded on both the upper and lower sides. The surface of these loments are covered with hooked hairs that can cling to clothing or fur. Individual segments of the loments can break off and cling to more than one passing carrier. The root system consists of a stout taproot. Vegetative colonies are not formed.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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