Herbs, annual. Stems erect, mostly 0.3-1 m, glabrous. Leaves: petiole 1-3 cm; blade unlobed, variable, mostly lanceolate or ovate, 8-15 × 1-8 cm, base tapering, apex long-acuminate. Inflorescences variously fasciated, dense, crested or plumose. Flowers: tepals pink, red, yellow, purple, or white, faintly 3-veined at base, 5-8 mm, scarious; style elongate, 3-4 mm; stigmas 3. Utricles 3-4 mm. Seeds 6-10, 1.5 mm diam., faintly reticulate, shiny. 2n = 72. Flowering late summer-fall. Trash dumps, waste places; 0-1000 m; introduced; Ala., Conn., D.C., Kans., La., Mo., N.C., Ohio, R.I., Tenn., Vt.; West Indies. In this treatment, Celosia cristata, the cultivated cockscomb, is considered a species separate from C. argentea, its likely wild progenitor; however, it is often treated as an infraspecific entity (variety or form) of the latter. The former is a tetraploid; the latter, an octoploid, although a tetraploid race of C. argentea is known in India (T. N. Khoshoo and M. Pal 1973). Convincing evidence has been presented for recognizing this cytologically and morphologically distinct race as a separate species (W. F. Grant 1961, 1962). Celosia cristata is known only in cultivation or as an escape from cultivation.
Or C. argentea var. cristata (L.) Kuntze, the Cockscomb, rarely escapes from cult. in our range. It is a cultigen derived from C. argentea, with cristate, fan-shaped, or distorted spikes in a variety of colors.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.