IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Comprehensive Description

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This perennial wildflower is up to 3½' tall (including the inflorescence). It has a single erect stem about 1-2' tall that terminates in a pseudo-whorl of 5-6 spreading trifoliate leaves. The stem is light green and either hairless or sparsely hairy. Each trifoliate leaf has a slender petiole about 1½-5" long and 3 leaflets that are 2-5" long and 1½-3" across; the terminal leaflet is larger in size than the lateral leaflets. The leaflets are ovate to broadly ovate in shape with long narrow tips; their margins are smooth and sometimes slightly ciliate. The upper leaflet surface is medium to dark green and hairless, while the lower leaflet surface is pale green and sparsely hairy along the veins. The petiolules (basal stalklets) of the lateral leaflets are less than ¼" long, while the petiolule of each terminal leaflet is 1-3" long. From the central stem, a narrow raceme or raceme-like panicle of flowers develops that is 1-2' long; this raceme can be erect, ascending, or lean over to one side. The central stalk of the raceme is light  to medium green, terete or somewhat angular, and covered with stiff short hairs. The flowers are sparsely to moderately distributed along the central stalk on short pedicels about ¼" long. The slender pedicels are light green to reddish green and covered with short stiff hairs. Individual flowers are up to 1/3" long with a typical pea-like floral structure consisting of a banner, 2 lateral wings, and 2 petals that form an inner keel. These petals are light pink to rosy pink. Each flower has a light green to whitish green calyx that is short-tubular with shallow lobes; it is often ciliate or slightly hairy. The blooming period occurs during the summer for about 1-2 months. Usually, relatively few flowers are in bloom at the same time. There is no noticeable floral scent. The flowers are later replaced by flattened loments (seedpods) about ½-1½" long; these loments are initially green, they later turn brown at maturity. The sides of each loment are covered with short hooked hairs. Each loment is divided into 1-4 segments (each one about 1/3" long); the segments have upper sides that are slightly concave and lower sides that are convex or angular-convex. At the front of each loment, there is a narrow stipe about ¼" long. Each loment can break apart along each pair of its segments; each segment contains a single reniform seed that is somewhat flattened. The root system consists of a taproot.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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