This is a perennial wildflower about 1½-3½' tall that branches occasionally. The stems are light green, red, brown, or nearly white; they are terete and glabrous (except for an uncommon variety with pubescent stems). The alternate leaves are 1¼-4" long and ¼-¾" across; they are narrowly lanceolate or elliptic, smooth along their margins; sometimes their margins are slightly ciliate or they are tinted red. The leaves are light to medium green and glabrous (except for an uncommon variety with pubescent leaves). The leaves are sessile or they have short petioles (less than ½" in length). Leaf venation is pinnate. Along the upper half of each plant, solitary flowers develop from the axils of the leaves on short pedicels (about 1/8" in length). Each flower is ½-¾" across, consisting of 4 yellow petals, 4 light green sepals, 4 short stamens, and a pistil with a short style. The tip of the style is light green and globular. The petals are oval to obovate in shape, while the sepals are ovate-cordate in shape; both petals and sepals are about the same length. The sepals are glabrous and smooth along their margins; sometimes their margins are slightly ciliate or tinted red. The blooming period occurs during the summer for about 2 months. Each flower remains intact for only a single day; the petals are early-deciduous and become detached when they are exposed to even minor disturbance. Later in the year, the flowers are replaced by seed capsules (about ¼" in length) with a cubic shape that turn brown at maturity. The tiny seeds are released from each capsule by a small pore at its apex. These capsules can float on water or be blown about by the wind, distributing the seeds to new areas. Individual seeds are 0.5-1.0 mm. in length and narrowly ellipsoid in shape. The root system is fleshy and fibrous.
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