Besseya bullii (Kittentails)
|Also known as:||Bull's Coraldrops|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; sandy soil; prairies, open woods, bluffs, barrens, hillsides|
|Bloom season:||April - June|
|Plant height:||8 to 16 inches|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Pale yellow flowers are in a single dense spike cluster 2 to 6 inches long. Individual flowers are less than ¼ inch long, with 4 or 5 irregular lobes and 2 long stamens that protrude from the center. As the plant matures, the stem elongates with flowers blooming just near the top.
Leaves and stem:
There are both stem leaves and basal leaves. The stem leaves are up to 1 inch long and ½ inch wide, toothless, oval to somewhat triangular with no leaf stem, sometimes clasping the stem. The basal leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, to 3 inches wide, oval to egg-shaped, with scalloped edges and leaf stems about 1 inch long. All leaves are hairy, as are stems.
Kittentails is a rare plant and on the Threatened species list in the handful of Upper Midwest/Great Lakes states where it grows. The Twin Cities area is more or less its center of population in Minnesota, though it is also located in a few counties farther north and west. I've often seen it growing on a bluff or hillside, in dappled sunlight or on a north facing slope. The leaves persist long after the stem withers away so it is still possible to find when not in bloom. Like a number of other species formerly in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family, Besseya has been reassigned to Plantaginaceae (Plantain).
Where to buy native seed and plants
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- Kittentail plants
- a colony of Kittentails, near the end of the season
- a spring sprout
- a bumper crop of Kittentails
- Kittentails with Prairie Smoke
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Vermillion Falls, Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at McKnight Prairie, Goodhue County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?