Aletris

Linnaeus

Sp. Pl. 1: 319. 1753

Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 149. 1754

Common names: Colic-root stargrass
Etymology: Greek aletris, a female slave who ground corn, alluding to the mealy texture of the perianths
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 26. Treatment on page 64. Mentioned on page 51, 55, 56, 57, 65, 67.
Herbs, perennial, scapose, rhizomatous. Leaves in dense basal rosettes, clasping erect branches; blade narrowly linear to lanceolate, oblanceolate, linear-elliptic, or elliptic, flat, leathery, distal margins fused to form subulate tips. Scape 2–10 dm. Inflorescences racemose. Flowers each subtended by 2 subulate, unequal bracts, short-pedicellate; perianth white, yellow, or golden orange, cylindrical, campanulate, or obovoid, abaxial surfaces rough; tepals 6, connate basally; stamens 6, included; filaments adnate to perianth; anthers oblong-lanceolate, longer than filaments; ovary half inferior with proximal portions of perianth adnate at maturity; style 3-branched at apex. Fruits capsular, 3-locular, beaked. Seeds amber, deeply sulcate, ellipsoid to ovoid, 0.5–0.8 mm, lustrous.

Distribution

North America, West Indies (Bahamas), eastern Asia.

Discussion

Species ca. 25 (5 in the flora).

Some species of Aletris (e.g., A. lutea and A. obovata) are quickly eliminated unless habitats are occasionally burned or otherwise kept clear of undergrowth.

Key

1 Perianth usually wholly yellow to golden yellow, rarely white. > 2
1 Perianth white to creamy white, lobes sometimes tipped with orange or pinkish orange. > 3
2 Perianth cylindrical, 9–12 mm, more than 2.5 times as long as broad, lobes spreading. Aletris lutea
2 Perianth campanulate, 6–7 mm, 2 times or less as long as broad, lobes erect. Aletris aurea
3 Perianth campanulate or obovoid, lobes turned slightly inward. Aletris obovata
3 Perianth cylindrical, lobes spreading. > 4
4 Leaves dull grayish green, 0.6–1 cm wide; beaks of fruits gradually tapering from body to tip. Aletris bracteata
4 Leaves bright yellowish green, 0.5–2.6 cm wide; beaks of fruits abruptly narrowed distally. Aletris farinosa