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This native biennial wildflower forms a low rosette of leaves about 8-12" across during the first year. During the second year, it bolts and becomes 2-7' tall. Usually, this wildflower is unbranched, although sometimes ascending lateral branches develop along the upper one-third of a large plant. The central stem (and any lateral stems) is rather stout, terete, and light green to pale purple; it is usually hairy along the lower half of its length, becoming hairless and slightly glaucous along the upper half. The alternate leaves are up to 6" long and 2" across, becoming gradually smaller as they ascend the stem; they are pinnatifid with pointed irregular lobes and dentate along their margins. The upper surfaces of these leaves are medium green and often sparsely hairy; their lower surfaces are pale green and hairy, particularly along the midribs.  The basal leaves are similar to the alternate leaves, except they tend to be larger in size and more wide toward their tips (narrowly obovate to obovate). Young developing basal leaves are usually very hairy on both their upper and lower surfaces. The central stem (and any lateral stems) terminates in an elongated panicle of flowerheads about 6-12" long and 2-4" across. The branches of the panicle are light green to reddish purple, terete, and usually hairless. Each flowerhead is about 1/3" across (8-10 mm.) when fully open, consisting of 12-25 ray florets, no disk florets, and light green to purple floral bracts that are arranged in about 3 series around its base (involucre); this base is about 2/3–3/4" (15-20 mm.) long. The rays of the flowerhead are colored salmon to brick-red and their tips are truncate and finely toothed. The outer floral bracts are shorter than the inner floral bracts.  The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and usually lasts about 3 weeks. Individual flowerheads last only a single day, blooming for only a few hours on sunny days. After only a short period of time, individual flowerheads are replaced by small black achenes with tufts of white hair. Each achene is 4-5 mm. long, ellipsoid-oblanceoloid in shape, and flattened; the tuft of white hairs is attached to the achene by a slender white beak about 2.5–3.5 mm. long. These achenes are distributed by the wind. The root system consists of a taproot. This wildflower reproduces by reseeding itself.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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