Besseya bullii (Kittentails)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bull's Coraldrops
Genus:Besseya
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Threatened
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Notes:

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).

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More photos

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.

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