Comprehensive Description

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This shrub is 3-9' tall with ascending to arching branches. The bark of the trunk or larger branches is gray to brown and slightly wrinkled or fissured, while the bark of small branches is brown to red and smooth with scattered lenticels (air pores). Young shoots are light green, terete, and pubescent. Alternate leaves occur along the smaller branches and young shoots. These leaves are 1½-3½" long and ½-1½" across; they are broadly elliptic in shape and their margins are either finely serrated or they have sparse minute teeth. The upper surface of the leaves is yellowish green to green and glabrous, while the lower surface is slightly more pale and usually sparsely pubescent along the major veins. The petioles are up to ½" long, glabrous or pubescent, and yellowish green, light green, or red. Leaf venation is pinnate. Upper stems terminate in narrow racemes of flowers about 2-6" long. These racemes can be erect, ascending, or drooping. Each flower spans about 1/3" (8 mm.) across, consisting of a short open calyx with 5 shallow teeth, 5 white petals that are linear-lanceolate, 5 stamens, and a lanceoloid pistil with a single style. The calyx is light green to yellowish green and pubescent, while the pistil is yellowish green to white and pubescent. The pedicels are about 1/8" (3 mm.) long, light green or yellowish green, and short-pubescent. The central rachis of the raceme is light green to brown and pubescent. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 3-4 weeks. The flowers are mildly to moderately fragrant. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by 2-celled seed capsules about ¼" long that are lanceoloid in shape and become dark brown at maturity. The base of each capsule is swollen by the persistent calyx. At this time, the seed capsules split open to release their seeds. The chunky seeds are 1.0-1.5 mm. long, 0.5-1.0 mm. across, and compressed (somewhat flattened). The seed surface is dark and shiny. The root system is woody and develops underground runners, forming clonal offsets. The leaves are deciduous in Illinois, becoming bright red during the autumn (see photo of Autumn Leaves).


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

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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