IUCN threat status:

Not evaluated

Comprehensive Description

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This perennial wildflower is 1-2½' tall and compactly branched. The stems are light green to reddish green, angular or terete, and canescent-hairy. Alternate compound leaves occur along the stems; individual leaves are palmate with 7-11 leaflets. Individual leaflets are 1-2½" long and oblanceolate in shape; their margins are smooth and ciliate. The upper surface of the leaflets is medium green and hairless, while the lower surface is pale green. Each compound leaf has a long ascending petiole about 1-4" long that is light green to reddish green. The stems, petioles, and leaf undersides are sparsely to moderately canescent-hairy. The upper stems terminate in narrow racemes of flowers about 4-10" long. The flowering stalks are light green to reddish purple. Individual flowers are about ¾" long, consisting of 5 blue-violet petals (rarely white or pink), a tubular calyx with large lobes, several stamens, and a pistil with a single style. The petals have a pea-like floral structure, consisting of a large upper banner and 2 wings that project forward to enclose the keel. The lateral edges of the banner fold backward from its center; as a flower ages, the center of the banner becomes more white. The calyx is light green to reddish purple. The slender pedicels of the flowers are up to ½" long. The flowering stalks, calyces, and pedicels are sparsely to moderately canescent-hairy. At the base of each flower, there is a linear-lanceolate floral bract that soon withers away.  The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about 1 month for a colony of plants. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by elongated seedpods about 1¼-2" long and canescent-hairy. Each seedpod contains about 7 seeds, which can be ejected several feet away from the mother plant. The root system consists of a taproot with rhizomes. Reproduction is by seed and vegetative clones from the rhizomes.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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