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Perennials.  Stems are 1 or more per plant; sparsely to somewhat more densely pubescent with matted or cobwebby hairs; often branching from below midstem.  Typical height is 2 to 3+ feet.

The overall inflorescence is open, with numerous widely spreading to ascending branches, each branch bearing a small number of  flower heads, clustered toward branch tips.

Flower heads are pseudo-radiate.  Involucres are 15-18 mm high.  Florets are 40-100+.  Peripheral florets are enlarged (relative to inner florets), neuter, 5-lobed, falsely appearing as rays, usually pink/magenta.  Central florets are bisexual and fertile; smaller than peripheral florets, corollas pink or white, tubular, apically with 5 slender, spreading lobes.  Appendages of involucral bracts are dry, thin, light brown, rounded or truncated and irregularly cut along the top margin.  Appendages of involucral bracts never have margins with comb-like fringes.

Basal and lower stem leaves, sometimes present at flowering, are often irregularly lobed and/or toothed.  Upper leaves are oblanceolate, lanceolate or elliptic, irregularly lobed and/or toothed, becoming smaller and untoothed/unlobed upwards and on branches.  Leaves are glabrate or thinly pubescent with matted or cobwebby hairs.

Plants of fields, roadsides, open disturbed areas.  Flowers July to September.  Not native.  Invasive in some states.

Cypselae are tan, without pappus.

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Selected references:  Keil and Ochsmann (2006)Haines (2011).

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Similar species:  other species in the genus Centaurea.

 

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