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This perennial plant is about 2-3' long and erect to sprawling; it branches occasionally. The light green stems are terete and hairless. The lower stems of individual plants are often decumbent along the ground; rootlets often develop at the nodes of these decumbent stems where the sheaths occur. The alternate leaves are up to 7" long and ¾" across, becoming smaller along the upper stems; mature leaves are spaced about ½–2" apart along each stem. They are green to dark green, oblong-lanceolate, smooth along the margins, and hairless or mostly hairless. Sometimes the leaf margins are slightly ciliate. The petioles of the leaves are short and slender. At the bases of petioles, there are membranous sheaths (ocreae) that wrap around the stems. These ring-like sheaths often have lines of short appressed hairs, while the upper rims of these sheaths usually lack bristles (when such bristles are present, they are less than 1 mm. in length). Each upper stem often terminates into 1-3 narrow racemes of flowers. Each raceme is up to 6" long and ascending to erect; the flowers and their buds are distributed somewhat sparsely along its length. Each flower is up to 1/8" across, consisting of 5 tepals, 8 stamens, and a tripartite style. The tepals are white or light pink and they lack glandular dots. Usually, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time on a raceme. At the bases of flowers, there are small sheaths (ocreoleae); these sheaths have relatively few bristles (less than 1 mm. in length) along their upper rims, or none. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about 1–1½ months. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by shiny black seeds (one seed per flower) that are ovoid and bluntly 3-angled. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. Clonal colonies of plants are often formed from the rhizomes and/or rootlets of decumbent stems.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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