Comprehensive Description

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This wildflower is an annual or biennial about 1-2½' tall that is either unbranched or sparingly so. The central stem is pale green, rather stout, terete or angular, and densely short-pubescent. Pairs of opposite leaves occur along this stem. Individual leaves are 1-3" long, ¼-¾" across, more or less elliptic or elliptic-oblong in shape, smooth along the margins, and either sessile or tapering gradually to a short petiole. The upper leaf  surface is pale to medium green and sparsely canescent, while the lower surface is pale green and short-pubescent. The central stem terminates into 2 or more whorls of flowers. Underneath each whorl of flowers, there is a whorl of floral bracts with a colorful leafy appearance. Individual flowers are about ¾" long, consisting of a light pink to purplish pink corolla that is deeply two-lipped, a green to purplish green tubular calyx with 5 teeth that terminate into conspicuous awns, and the reproductive organs (2 stamens & a pistil) that remain largely inserted within the corolla. The narrow upper lip of the corolla functions as a protective hood, while the narrow lower lip has 3 terminal lobes and functions as a landing pad for floral visitors. The upper lip is softly hairy at its apex. The corolla is not spotted, although it may have stripes within its interior. The teeth of the calyx are deltate-linear in shape; including the awns, they are at least 3 times longer than they are across. The floral bracts are about the same size as the true leaves. These bracts are about the same color as the corollas of the flowers (light pink to purplish pink, although with some greenish tints) and more or less oblong in shape; their tips taper abruptly into awns. The blooming period occurs during the summer for 1-2 months. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by nutlets. These nutlets are distributed primarily by gravity and usually they don't travel far from the mother plant.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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