Comprehensive Description

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This introduced perennial vine is semi-woody and up to 30' long. Young stems are green, glabrous, and terete, while older stems are brownish green to brown. Opposite pairs of compound leaves occur at intervals along the stems. These compound leaves are odd-pinnate and they usually have 5 leaflets. The long petioles of these compound leaves can lean or bend around neighboring objects for support; tendrils are not present. This vine can climb small trees, fences, and similar objects; in more open areas, it sprawls across the ground. The leaflets are up to 3" long and 1½" across; they are ovate or ovate-cordate, glabrous, and smooth along their margins. The upper surface of each leaflet is medium green, while the lower surface is dull light green; its major veins are parallel. Each leaflet has a petiolule (or small stalk) at its base of varying length. From the axils of the upper leaves, there develops flat-headed panicles of flowers. The flowers are usually bisexual, although monoecious vines (with separate male and female flowers) may occur. Each bisexual flower has 4 petal-like white sepals (less often 5), many long stamens, and 5-6 pistils with elongated styles toward the center. Both the stamens and styles of the pistils are white or cream-colored. True petals are absent. The branches and branchlets of the panicle are green and slender. The blooming period occurs from late summer into fall, typically lasting about 1½ months. The flowers have a strong sweet fragrance. After the blooming period, each flower is replaced by a cluster of achenes with long spreading styles. These persistent styles are covered with long white hairs, which provides them with a feathery appearance. The large achenes are ovoid and flattened in shape; they are thinly covered with appressed silky hairs. Because of their feathery styles, the achenes are distributed to some extent by the wind. This perennial vine 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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