Biennial herb 0.5 - 1.5 m tall Stem: few-branched. Leaves: alternate, short-stalked, 3 - 12 cm long, 0.4 - 1.5 cm wide, lance-shaped, tapering to the base. Flowers: borne in a dense terminal infloresecence (raceme) to 35 cm long, yellow, small, with four sepals and four unequal petals, the uppermost petal largest and the others progressively smaller, upper petals four- to eight-lobed, lower petals unlobed to four-lobed. The stamens are borne 20 to 30 on a fleshy disk and are clustered on one side of the flower, and the ovary is three- to four-lobed at the tip. Fruit: a nearly spherical capsule, 3 - 4 mm long, 5 - 6 mm wide, with a three- or four-lobed tip that opens at maturity, containing blackish kidney-shaped seeds.
Similar species: Reseda alba and Reseda lutea have deeply divided leaves and capsules that are longer than wide. Reseda odorata has very fragrant flowers with six yellowish white to greenish flowers.
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from Europe, this species is rare in the Chicago Region.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Notes: This species used to be grown for a yellow dye.
Etymology: Reseda comes from the Latin word resedo, meaning "to heal." Luteola means yellowish.