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This introduced annual plant is about 2-3' tall. It often produces 2 or 3 forking stems that are themselves little branched. These stems are round and pubescent, although with age they often become glabrous. The alternate leaves are sessile, palmately divided, and up to 3" long and across. Their lobes repeatedly subdivide into smaller lobes that are narrowly linear, providing the leaves with a lacy appearance. They are slightly pubescent and often have a silky appearance. The stems terminate into spike-like racemes of blue-violet flowers. These racemes can be up to 1' in length. Each flower is about 2" across, consisting of 5 petal-like sepals, 4 petals, a single pistil, and some stamens with light blue anthers. The upper sepal forms a hood in front and an upward-curving spur in back about 1" long. The middle and lower sepals are well-rounded and spreading. The 2 upper petals form a protective inner hood of the reproductive organs; they are not fused together. The 2 lower petals form a V-shaped landing pad for visiting insects. The outer sepals are larger in size than the inner petals. At the base of each flower is a slender pedicel about 1" long. The blooming period occurs during the summer and lasts about 1-2 months. Each flower is replaced by a pubescent follicle containing numerous small black seeds. These seeds are small enough to be dispersed by gusts of wind. The root system is a slender branching taproot. This plant spreads by reseeding itself, and may form colonies at favorable sites, although it usually doesn't persist.


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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