IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Comprehensive Description

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Description

This perennial plant is ½–2' tall, branching occasionally. The hairy stems are sprawling or erect. The alternate compound leaves are trifoliate. The lower compound leaves have long hairy petioles, while the upper leaves have short petioles or they are sessile. The leaflets are up to 2" long and ¾" across. They are oval-ovate or slightly obovate; sometimes they are a little broader below the middle. Their margins are smooth and ciliate and their tips are blunt. Toward the middle of the upper surface of each leaflet, there is usually a chevron that is white or light green. The leaflets are sessile and lack petioles of their own. At the base of each compound leaf, there is a pair of ovate stipules up to ½" long. The upper stems terminate in flowerheads that are spheroid or ovoid. Usually there are 1-3 leaflets immediately beneath each flowerhead, as well as several green bracts with tips that abruptly taper to a slender tip. Each flowerhead is about 1" across and consists of numerous flowers. These flowers are sessile, tubular-shaped, and spread outward in different directions. Each flower has 5 narrow petals that are pink or purplish pink, becoming light pink or white toward the base of the flowerhead; a rare form of this species with white petals also exists. The upper petal is slightly longer than the lower petals. The light green calyx of each flower has 5 slender teeth and it is usually hairy.  The blooming period usually occurs from late spring to mid-summer and lasts about 1-2 months. However, a few plants may bloom later in the summer or fall. The flowers have a mild honey-like fragrance, while the foliage, when it exists in abundance, produces a distinctive clover-like aroma that is quite pleasant. Each flower is replaced by a small seedpod containing 1 or 2 heart-shaped seeds. The root system consists of a taproot and produces rhizomes. This plant can spread vegetatively or by reseeding itself.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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