Antennaria plantaginifolia (Plantain-leaved Pussytoes)
|Also known as:||Woman's Tobacco, Plain-leaf Pussytoes|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; open woods, thickets|
|Bloom season:||April - June|
|Plant height:||4 to 16 inches|
|USDA PLANTS database:||Minnesota county distribution map|
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Flowers are in a rounded cluster about 1 inch across at the top of the plant, made up of 4 to 16 grayish white flower heads ¼ to 1/3 inch long. The flower heads look like little furry balls, with tiny scaly bracts.
Leaves and stem:
There is a clump of basal leaves near the main stem, but separate from it. Most basal leaves are broadly spoon shaped, up to 3 inches long and to 1½ inches wide, with a round tip and 3 to 5 prominent veins down the middle. Stem leaves are up to 1½ inches long and about ¼ inch wide, toothless, alternately attached with no leaf stem. All leaves are covered in woolly hairs, giving them a gray-green color. The main stem is also covered in woolly hairs. The stem often angles or leans over in the upper part of the plant.
Fruit is a tiny brown seed with a tuft of white hair attached to carry it off in the wind.
According to the DNR, there are 4 species of pussytoes in Minnesota. Details on identification are sketchy but they all seem similar. Distinguishing features are the number of prominent veins, best seen on the back of the basal leaves, and whether the leaves are woolly hairy or relatively hairless. Plantain-leaved Pussytoes have hairy leaves and at least 3 prominent veins on the leaves. Field Pussytoes also have woolly leaves, but they are much smaller and have just 1 prominent vein, though I've often seen 2 additional faint veins on the back. Plantain-leaved Pussytoes tend to grow in clumps.
Pussytoes are one of my assigned species in the Prairie Care program at Wild River State Park. This particular species seems to thrive in the “mow zone” along the sides of trails and roads, especially at the edges of woods where there is dappled sunlight. The first year I monitored them I discovered American Painted Lady caterpillars nesting in the leaves. It was interesting to watch their progress week after week.
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- a young plant sprouting, about 4 inches tall
- a colony of Plantain-leaved Pussytoes growing in the grass
- caterpillars nesting
Photos taken at Wild River State Park, Center City, MN May-June 2007 and 2008
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?