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This herbaceous perennial plant is about 1½–3' tall, branching occasionally. The stems are green, terete to angular, and either glabrous or sparsely hairy along two opposite lines. The opposite leaves are up to 5" long and 3" across; they are lanceolate to ovate in shape and smooth or slightly undulate along their margins. The upper leaf surface is yellowish green to dark green and glabrous (or nearly so), while the lower leaf surface is pale to medium green and glabrous to sparsely hairy along the undersides of the veins. The petioles are ¼–½" long. From the axils of the middle to upper leaves, there develops 1-3 flowers that are nearly sessile. Less often, such flowers will terminate a lateral stem that is up to 6" long, directly above a pair of leaves. Each flower is about 2" long and 1½" across, consisting of a funnelform corolla that is pinkish lavender to bluish violet (rarely white, except at its base), a green short-tubular calyx with long slender teeth, 4 inserted stamens, and a pistil with an inserted style. The corolla is narrowly tubular at the base, but it spreads outward to form 5 rounded lobes. The lobes of the corolla have undulate edges and a delicate appearance. At the throat of the corolla, there are several fine veins that are purple and somewhat reticulated; they function as nectar guides for visiting insects. The tubular portion of the calyx is about ¼" long or a little less, while its teeth are ½–1" long, linear-lanceolate in shape, strongly ciliate along their margins, and 2-3 mm. across. The blooming period occurs during the summer for 2-3 months. Each diurnal flower lasts only a single day; a single mature plant will have about 0-2 flowers in bloom during a typical summer day. The flowers are often partially hidden by the foliage. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by glabrous seed capsules that are up to ¾" long. Each of these capsules contains several seeds that are released explosively. Individual seeds are about 3 mm. (1/8") across, flattened-globoid in shape, and brown to dark brown. There is a less common form of this plant that produces non-showy cleistogamous flowers (f. cleistantha); it usually has more narrow leaves than the typical form (f. strepens). Cultivation


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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers


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