Plant A Day – Illinois Bundleflower

Illinois Bundleflower Desmanthus illinoensis

Illinois Bundleflower
Desmanthus illinoensis

I wonder what it’s like to be a taxonomist.  Sort of like a politician, everybody loves you but everybody hates you.

It turns out that Illinois Bundleflower is in the Legume family.  Sounds simple enough, but how is this plant related to soybeans?  Well, not that closely.  The taxonomists decided to split Fabaceae into several subfamilies.  Soybeans are in the subfamily Faboideae and the Illinois Bundleflower is in the subfamily Mimosoideae.  So, they’re not so closely related.

In fact, the Mimosoideae includes the Acacia tree.  Geez, Illinois Bundleflower doesn’t  look anything like the Acacia!  But wait, Mimosoideae has been further split into several tribes.  Acacia is in the Acacieae tribe and Illinois Bundleflower is in the Mimoseae tribe along with, you guessed it, Mimosa.

So, Illinois Bundleflower is a sibling of Mimosa, a cousin of Acacia, and a second cousin of the Soybean.  Whew, don’t those taxonomists have fun!

This plant is not common and the only place I’ve seen it is in prairie restorations.  It is occasionally used in pasture plantings for cattle due to its high protein content.


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