It is an annual or biennial growing to 90 cm (35 in) tall by 30 cm (12 in) broad, with large, coarse, pointed oval leaves with marked serrations. In spring and summer it bears terminal racemes of white or violet flowers, followed by showy, translucent, disc-shaped seedpods with a silvery sheen, 3–8 cm (1–3 in) in diameter, which persist on the plant through winter.
The Latin name lunaria means "moon-shaped" and refers to the shape and appearance of the seedpods. The common name "honesty" arose in the 16th century, and may also relate to the translucence of the seedpods. In South East Asia, it is called the "money plant" and in the United States it is commonly known as "silver dollars", "Chinese money", or "Chinese coins" because its seedpods have the appearance of silvery coins. In Denmark it is known as judaspenge and in The Netherlands as judaspenning (coins of Judas), an allusion to the story of Judas Iscariot and the thirty pieces of silver he was paid for betraying Christ.
This plant is easy to grow from seed. It is usually grown as a biennial, being sown one year to flower the next. It is suitable for cultivation in a shady or dappled area, or in a wildflower garden, and the flowers and dried seedpods are often seen in flower arrangements. Numerous varieties and cultivars are available, of which the white-flowered L. annua var. albiflora has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
See also 
- Lunaria rediviva (perennial honesty)
- Dame's Violet, Hesperis matronalis, a similar and related plant, but with long cylindrical seedpods instead of flat papery disks.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- Coombes, Allen J. (2012). The A to Z of plant names. USA: Timber Press. p. 312. ISBN 9781604691962.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Lunaria annua var. albiflora". Retrieved 22 May 2013.
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