Inflorescences solitary flowers, 5-30 cm; axis white. Pedicels nodding at anthesis, erect in fruit. Flowers: sepals (3-)5(-6), similar to subtending bracts, lanceolate to oblong, 7-10 × 4-6 mm; petals (3-)5(-6), white to pinkish or reddish, obovate, 10-20 × 5-15 mm, base slightly saccate, margins entire, apex rounded or, rarely, slightly lacerate, adaxial surfaces with scattered hairs; nectary lobes 10, elongate, curved-cylindric; stamens 8-14; filaments glabrous or sparsely hairy; anthers horizontal at anthesis, transversely ellipsoid to depressed-ovoid, abaxial pair of sacs smaller; ovary 6-12 × 5-9 mm, glabrous or sparsely hairy; style 2-7 × 2-5 mm, glabrous or sparsely hairy; stigma broadly funnelform, 2-6 mm diam., not subtended by ring of crowded hairs. Capsules 5-segmented; segments persistent after seed dispersal, stout, 7-11 × 5-12 mm, often connected along margins by fine, pinnate, vascular strands. Seeds 0.5-1 mm, mostly membranously winged. 2n = 32, 48.
Flowering early summer-fall. Moist to dry, coniferous and mixed-deciduous forests; 0-3000 m; St. Pierre and Miquelon; Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask.; Ala., Ark., Calif., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Oreg., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., Wash., W.Va., Wis.; s Mexico; Central America; South America (Colombia); s, e Asia.
Stems 1-2 dm, solitary or several, waxy-white, rarely pink or red; fl solitary, nodding, odorless, 10-17 mm; sep often none; pet broadly oblong, slightly widened distally; anthers opening by 2 clefts across the top; style longer than the ovary; stigma glabrous. Rich woods; Nf. to B.C., s. to Fla., Calif., and Colombia; also e. Asia. June-Aug.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
A saprophyte on humus in several types of habitat but usually in black and white oak woods. I once found a large clump of large plants growing in sphagnum in a tamarack bog. The species is well distributed in the state but ordinarily infrequent. In the low woods on the north side of the Kankakee River south of Schneider in Lake County, however, it was so common that it reminded one of a woods in winter when the snow was on the ground. Acres of this woods were carpeted with it. I revisited this woods several years at the same time of the year but I was able to find only a plant here and there.