This perennial wildflower forms a low rosette of basal leaves, from
which there develops an erect flowering stalk about 1½-3' tall. The
basal leaves are 2-7" long and ¼-1" across; they are lanceolate-oblong,
elliptic-oblong, or oblanceolate-oblong in shape and smooth along their
margins. The basal leaves are pale green to yellowish green and
glabrous; their venation is parallel. Along the lower half of the
flowering stalk, there
are widely-spaced alternate leaves that are less than 1" long and 1/8"
across; they are lanceolate in shape, pale green to yellowish green,
glabrous, and thin-textured. The lower half of the flowering stalk is
pale green to yellowish green, glabrous, and terete.
upper half of the flowering stalk, is a spike-like raceme of flowers
about ½-1½' long. Each flower is 7-10 mm. in length, consisting of a 6
white tepals with slightly recurved tips, 6 inserted stamens,
and a pistil. The elongated tepals are joined together, except at their
tips, forming a narrow tubular shape. The outer white surfaces of the
tepals have a texture that is conspicuously warty-mealy. At the base of
each flower, there is a short slender pedicel. At the base of each
pedicel, there is a slender deciduous bract about 2-3 mm. in length.
The central stalk of the raceme is pale green, shallowly grooved, and
often pubescent. The
blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, lasting about a
month. Afterwards, small
ovoid seed capsules develop that become 3-5 mm. in length. Each seed
3-celled and contains numerous tiny seeds about 0.5 mm. in length. Each
seed capsule splits open toward its apex to release the seeds to
the wind. The root system consists of stout rootstock that resembles a
rhizome; it has fibrous roots below.
The preference is full or partial sun, moist
conditions, and very sandy soil. Colic Root is intolerant of
competition from taller plants.
The native Colic Root occurs in
Illinois, where it is uncommon (see Distribution
of sand prairies, sandy shrub prairies, sand flats, openings
in sandy savannas, and sandy
areas along railroads. Open areas with sterile sandy soil are preferred.
Apparently very little information is
about floral-faunal relationships for this species. Consumption of
excessive amounts of the rootstock is known to cause diarrhea and
vomiting in humans.
An upland sand prairie at the
National Lakeshore in NW Indiana.
When Colic Root is in bloom it is very conspicuous because of
its tall spike-like racemes of white flowers. These flowers often rise
far above the surrounding ground vegetation in the open sandy areas
where this species occurs. The low basal leaves, on the other hand, are
relatively inconspicuous and easily overlooked. The flowers of Colic
Root are quite distinct in appearance because of the warty-mealy outer
surface of their tepals. Thus, Colic Root is easily identified when it
is in bloom. This is a wonderfully unique wildflower.