Aerial shoots 5-35(-60) cm, from tubers with rhizomes near apex, tubers ascending or vertical, rhizomes horizontal or ascending. Basal leaves 1-3(-5), 1-2-ternate; petiole 3-9(-10) cm; terminal leaflet petiolulate, rarely sessile, obtriangular, 2-3-cleft, 1-3 × 0.8-2(-2.5) cm, base narrowly attenuate to strongly and narrowly cuneate, margins serrate, rarely dissected on distal 2/3, apex obtuse to broadly acute, surfaces glabrous; lateral leaflets ±pinnately 1-2(-3)×-lobed or -parted; ultimate lobes 2-10 mm wide. Inflorescences 1-flowered; peduncle proximally glabrous, distally villous; involucral bracts 3, borne below middle of scape at anthesis, 1-tiered, simple, ±similar to basal leaves, obtriangular, 3-cleft, 1-2.5 cm, bases somewhat clasping, connate, margins incised on distal 1/2, apex acuminate, surfaces sparsely pilose; segments 3, broadly linear; lateral segments 1-2×-lobed or -parted; ultimate lobes 1-2.5 mm wide. Flowers: sepals 10-20(-30), white to rose or blue to purple, linear to oblong, (6-)10-20(-22) × 2-5(-7) mm, abaxially sparsely hairy, adaxially glabrous or nearly so; stamens 50-60. Heads of achenes fusiform; pedicel (5-)10-20 cm. Achenes: body ovoid, 1.5-2.5(-3) × ca. 2 mm, not winged, densely woolly; beak straight, 1.3-2 mm, projecting beyond achene indument, proximally tomentose, not plumose. 2 n =16.
Plants 1-4 dm, from a small, globular tuber that produces 1-several delicate succulent rhizomes; basal lvs deeply 3-parted, the segments deeply and irregularly incised into few or several acute divisions; involucral lvs borne below the middle, sessile, smaller than but otherwise much like the basal; peduncle solitary, villous; sep 10-20, white to rose or purple, 10-22 mm, narrowly oblong; fruiting head narrowly ±ellipsoid, 13-20 mm; achenes densely woolly, the erect style ca = the body and projecting from the wool; 2n=16. Dry prairies and barrens; S.D. to Tex., e. to Wis., Ind., La., and occasionally to Ga., S.C., and N.C. Apr., May.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
This species was reported by Blatchley in Indiana Geol. Rept. 21: 628. 1897. He says it was reported by Miss Nora Arnold, who knew of its growing for 12-13 years in patches on a hill along Durkey's Ferry Road about 5 miles north of Terre Haute, Vigo County. In April, 1933, I asked Prof. Fred Donaghy of the Terre Haute State Normal School to try to rediscover this species. He found it and sent me specimens. He wrote that a colony about 10 feet square was located on the slope of a bluff opposite Durkey's Ferry. The plants grew in sandy soil among grasses, had very shallow roots, and were 3-8 inches high.
Indiana Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 10
Wetland Indicator Status: N/A
Diagnostic Traits: Plants usually less than 25 cm tall; basal leaves deeply 3-parted; leaf-like cauline bracts below middle of stem, sessile; flowers 1, white to violet; perianth of 10 or more sepals; achenes wooly.