Rose family (Rosaceae)
This perennial herbaceous plant is 1½–3¼' tall, branching occasionally
to frequently. The stems are light green to brownish red, terete, and
hairless to hairy. Sessile leaves alternate along the stems. The
early leaves of this plant, after it emerges from the ground during
the spring, are trifoliate-pinnatifid in structure. and their leaflets
are sessile. The middle leaflet is cleft into 1-2 pairs of larger
lateral lobes and a prominent terminal lobe; it also has smaller cleft
lobes or coarse teeth along its margins. The lateral leaflets are more
asymmetric in shape; the lateral leaflets typically are cleft into 1-2
larger outer lobes, 0-1 larger inner lobes, and there are several
smaller lobes or coarse teeth along their margins. The lobes of these
early leaves are oblong-lanceolate to linear-lanceolate in
shape. Later leaves are
trifoliate with simple leaflets; their sessile leaflets are 2–3½" long,
or elliptic in shape, and the margins of these leaflets are coarsely
serrate or double-serrate (or rarely shallowly cleft). The upper leaf
surface is yellowish green to medium green and sparsely short-pubescent
to hairless, while the lower leaf surface is more pale and sparsely to
abundantly glandular short-pubescent. Young leaves are more yellowish
and hairy than mature leaves. At the leaf bases, there are pairs of
persistent leafy stipules about ½–1" long; they are sessile. Individual
stipules are ovate to reniform-orbicular in shape; they are shallowly
cleft or coarsely serrated along their margins. The upper and lower
surfaces of the stipules are similar to those of the leaves.
stems terminate in either individual flowers or small cymes of 2-5
flowers. The branches of the cymes and pedicels of the flowers are
slender and hairless to sparsely short-pubescent; the pedicels are ½–2"
flowers are ¾–1¼" across when they are fully open. Each flower consists
of a short-cylindrical calyx with 5 upright teeth, 5 spreading white
petals, 10-20 stamens, and 5 clustered pistils. The calyx is about ¼"
long, light green to red, and hairless to sparsely short-pubescent; its
small teeth are triangular in shape. The petals are narrowly elliptic
or narrowly oblanceolate-elliptic in shape. The stamens have short
filaments and light brown to dark brown anthers. The blooming period
occurs from early to mid-summer, lasting about 2-3 weeks. Afterwards,
individual flowers are replaced by 5 clustered follicles that are
partially exserted from the persistent calyx. Individual follicles are
about ½" long, 3-angled-ovoid in shape with slender beaks, and
few-seeded; they eventually split open to release their seeds. Mature
individual seeds are about 2.5 mm. long, reddish brown,
broadly oblongoid-ellipsoid in shape, flattened along one side,
and minutely pitted. The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous. During
the autumn, the foliage of this plant becomes pinkish yellow or red.
The preference is mesic to dry-mesic conditions, partial sun, and
clay-loam, loam, or rocky ground. This wildflower should be cultivated
Habitat: The native American Ipecac
occurs occasionally in the southern half of
Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is absent or rare (see
Illinois lies along the northern range-limit of this
species. Habitats include upland woodlands, rocky wooded slopes, upland
savannas, and limestone glades. Oak trees (Quercus spp.) are
the dominant canopy trees in these habitats. Occasional wildfires are
probably beneficial in maintaining populations of this species. It
usually occurs in higher quality natural areas.
Associations: The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract
primarily bees, including Anthophorine bees (Anthophora spp.),
little carpenter bees (Ceratina
spp.), resin bees (Heriades
mason bees (Hoplitis spp.,
leaf-cutter bees (Megachile
spp.), Halictid bees (Lasioglossum
spp.), and dagger bees (Calliopsis
spp.). Other insect pollinators include nectar-seeking
skippers, bee flies (Bombyliidae), and thick-headed flies (Conopidae);
see Robertson (1929) and Rudolph et al. (2006). The foliage is toxic to
An upland woodland
along Lake Charleston in Coles County, Illinois, and the wildflower
garden of the webmaster in Urbana, Illinois.
stipulatus) has a distinctive appearance,
particularly during the relatively short period when it is in bloom.
The stipules of this plant are unusually large in size and persistent.
Another similar species, Bowman's Root (Porteranthus trifoliatus),
occurs further to the east in the Appalachian Mountains, but it has not
been found in Illinois as a native or naturalized wildflower. Compared
to American Ipecac, this latter species has much smaller stipules along
its stems and they are early-deciduous, rather than persistent.
Bowman's Root has flowers with slightly longer petals and a longer
cylindrical calyx; the leaflets of this plant are also wider than those
of American Ipecac. Both of these plants have been referred to as
Indian Physic, and some authorities assign them to the Gillenia genus.
Thus, a scientific synonym of American Ipecac is Gillenia stipulata.