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This native shrub is often multi-stemmed and about 5-15' tall. Individual branches are often exceptionally long and straight. The bark of larger branches is light brown to grey with tiny lenticels and occasional vertical ridges, while smaller branches are light brown, rather smooth, and hairless. Pairs of opposite leaves occur at intervals along the smaller branches and twigs. The leaf blades are up to 4" long and 3" across; they are ovate-oval to cordate-orbicular in shape and very coarsely dentate along their margins. The upper surface of each leaf is medium green, glabrous, and prominently veined, while the lower surface is whitish green and hairless (or nearly so). Sometimes, there are small tufts of cobwebby hairs on the lower surface of a blade where the lateral veins connect to the central vein. At the base of each leaf blade, there is a slender hairless petiole about ¼–1" long. Cymes (flat-headed panicles) of small flowers about 3-4" across develop from the upper stems. Individual flowers are about ¼" across, consisting of a white corolla with 5 rounded lobes, a light green calyx with 5 shallow teeth, 5 exerted stamens, and a pistil. The branchlets of the cyme are light green, angular-ridged, and hairless. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and lasts about 3 weeks. The flowers have a musty unpleasant scent. Each flower is replaced by a small ovoid-globoid drupe about 1/3" long that becomes dark blue-violet when it is ripe. Each drupe contains a single flattened stone (seed with a hard coat). The root system is woody and branching.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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