Ellisia nyctelea (Aunt Lucy)

Plant Info
Also known as: Waterpod
Genus:Ellisia
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods, thickets, along streams, open fields
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:4 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular

[photo of flower] A single flower at the end of a hairy stem that arises opposite a leaf axil, or a few flowers in a loose cluster at the end of branching stems. Individual flowers are white or paled blue-violet, about ¼ inch across and less than ½ inch long, tubular with 5 rounded lobes. There are a few spots of purple on the inside of each lobe, and bluish purple lines along the length of the tube. The star-shaped bract behind the flower is very hairy and rather large compared to the flower.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, bristly hairy, deeply divided into 7 to 13 narrow segments, each segment may be further lobed in 3 or 5 parts. Attachment near the base of the plant is opposite, but alternate in the upper part of the plant. The leaf stalk is densely hairy while the main stem may have just a few scattered bristly hairs.

Notes:

Aunt Lucy flowers are pretty inconspicuous and can easily be missed but the leaves are fairly easy to spot. It may grow erect but is more often sprawling and likes disturbed soil. It is apparently adaptable, as well, as I came upon a colony of it with miniature leaves but full-sized flowers, growing along a dry railroad track. I thought it might be a different species but there is nothing else quite like it, so I believe it was just an adaptation to the dryness of the particular site. Ellisia was in the Hydrophyllaceae (Waterleaf) family but this has been merged into Boraginaceae (Borage).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek and Long Lake Regional parks, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Victoria - Scott County
on: 2011-04-21 20:16:38

Seeing the pictures reminds me somehow of the faint, but distinct odor of the plant. I'll have to rub some this year and get back to you on how it smells.

Posted by: Randall - New Ulm, Brown County
on: 2014-06-14 22:05:31

On 6/12/14, Dr. Anita F. Cholewa, the Curator of the University of Minnesota Herbarium, informed me by email that my submitted specimen of an Aunt Lucy was being added to the Bell Museum of Natural History’s collection. After 20 years of wildflowering, this is a first for me. 11” tall, it was found growing in front of a peony in a southwest-facing flowerbed here in Brown County. The deeply-divided leaves are what caught my attention.

Posted by: Sandy - Hennepin County
on: 2015-05-26 16:33:00

I have three Aunt Lucy's that have volunteered in my yard this year.

Posted by: Sandy - Hennepin County
on: 2015-05-26 17:57:00

If you want to view the Aunt Lucy's, my yard is in the Plymouth Library Tour on July 19.

Posted by: Michelle - Southeastern MN Winona county Plowline Trail
on: 2016-05-19 05:35:23

I noticed the unusual leaves in late April growing along a trail along the top of a bluff. Shady area. On May 18, I noticed flowers so I was able to search and found this match!

Posted by: Molly R - Nicollet county
on: 2017-05-14 20:45:37

Lots in my yard, last year too

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