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Description

This perennial plant is 2-5' tall and unbranched. The central stem is light green to purplish green, terete or slightly ridged, and glabrous to sparsely pubescent. The alternate leaves are up to 10" long and about 1/3" (8 mm.) across, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. Because of their dense distribution, they appear almost whorled. The leaves are linear in shape and their margins are smooth (entire). Each leaf has a distinct central vein. Both the upper and lower leaf surfaces are light to medium green and glabrous to sparsely hairy. The central stem terminates in a wand-like spike of flowerheads about 4-18" in length. These flowerheads are densely crowded along the spike, facing in all directions; they bloom at the top of the spike first, opening later below. Each flowerhead is about 1/3" (8 mm.) across, consisting of 4-10 disk florets and no ray florets. The corolla of each disk floret is pink to purplish pink (rarely white) and narrowly tubular. The upper corolla divides in 5 small lobes that are lanceolate in shape and somewhat recurved. A deeply divided style is strongly exerted from the corolla; it is white to light pink, filiform, and sometimes slightly twisted or curved. Around the base of each flowerhead, there are appressed floral bracts (phyllaries) that are overlapping. These floral bracts are green to purple, glabrous, and oval in shape. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late summer, lasting about 3 weeks. There is no noticeable floral scent. Afterwards, the florets are replaced by small achenes with stiff bristles at their apices; these bristles are light brown. The root system consists of a corm with shallow fibrous roots. Colonies of plants are often formed by means of clonal offsets that involve the production of new corms.

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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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