Perennial herb with a short, stout rhizome flowering stem to 1 m tall Leaves: in a basal rosette, to 20 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, narrowly lance-shaped with a long-pointed tip. There are also small, bract-like leaves scattered along the flowering stem. Inflorescence: a terminal, spike-like cluster of small flowers raised on a sturdy upright stem. Flowers: white, 8 - 10 mm long, tubular, with six triangular lobes that are 2 - 2.5 mm long. Stamens six, orangish. The flowers are noted for their mealy appearance. Fruit: a capsule, enclosed by withered sepals and petals.
Similar species: Aletris farinosa is the only Aletris species found in the Chicago Region and has no similar species.
Flowering: mid-June to late July
Habitat and ecology: Moist, sandy areas with somewhat acidic soil. Found in open woods, sandy prairies, sandy flats, and other areas where the vegetative cover is rather sparse.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The roots of this plant were once used to treat colic, hence one of its common names.
Etymology: Aletris comes from the Greek word meaning "the female slave who grinds the meal." Farinosa means mealy or powdery, and refers to the appearance of the flowers.
Stem 5-10 dm, beset with scattered linear bracts 3-20 mm; lvs narrowly lanceolate or oblanceolate, 8-20 cm, acuminate; raceme 1-2 dm, its bracts linear or clavate; fls white, tubular, 8-10 mm, the perianth-lobes narrowly triangular, 2-2.5 mm; ovary ca a third inferior, the lower part becoming obscurely 3-lobed and slightly gibbous in fr, the upper part becoming round-ovoid; seeds 0.7 mm; 2n=26. Sandy soil, open woods, and barrens; s. Me. to Fla., w. to Minn. and Tex. June, July.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.