Lithospermum caroliniense (Carolina Puccoon)

Plant Info
Also known as: Hairy Puccoon, Carolina Gromwell
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry, sandy soil; prairies, open woods, woodland edges
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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 Cluster type: flat Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Single, short-stalked flowers in the axils of 1 to a few arching branches at the top of the stem, giving the appearance of a (more or less) flat cluster at the top of the plant. Flowers are orange-yellow, about 1 inch across, tubular with 5 flaring, rounded petal-like lobes. The stamens are hidden inside the tube.

[photo of sepals] The 5 sepals at the base of the tube are narrowly triangular, about ½ inch long, densely covered in bristly hairs, and with a distinct ridge (keel) down the middle. The flowering branches elongate as the plant matures, with flowers open at the tip and fruit forming below. The leafy bracts at the base of the flowers become progressively smaller as they ascend the branch.

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

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are up to 1½ inches long and ¼ inch wide, lance-linear, bluntly pointed at the tip, and stalkless. Leaf edges are toothless and hairy; the surface texture is slightly rough from short stiff hairs. Stems are multiple from the base (up to 12), unbranched except in the flowers, and sparsely to densely covered in short bristly hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

Fruit is a small, hard, egg-shaped nutlet, initially gray-brown, becoming shiny white when mature.


Carolina Puccoon is easily mistaken for Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum canescens), which has smaller (½ inch) flowers, shorter sepals, and longer, softer hairs on the stems. There are 2 recognized varieties: var. caroliniense with flat sepals is present from Virginia south, and var. croceum, with keeled sepals and present from Oklahoma north, including Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


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

Posted by: Deb - Houston County - Sheldon Valley
on: 2010-05-26 18:53:36

I was visiting my parents on County Rd 10 in Sheldon Valley (Houston County, MN) over the weekend. I was exploring the top of one of the hills on their farm & found what I believe are Carolina Puccoon plants. They were near the top of the hill, on the west side, on a dry, steep, slightly shaded, rocky slope. I have never seen these flowers before. Are they common to MN? I also spotted what I believe are Yellow Star Grass. Again, I've never seen either of these flowers before.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-05-27 11:51:24

The puccoons are dry prairie plants that do well in full sun to part shade, sandy to rocky soil so the habitat sounds perfect. Hoary puccoon is the more common species and is found in almost every county in MN. Carolina puccoon is mostly in east-central to southeast counties, including Houston. You might have seen either one, or even both.

Yellow star grass like a similar habitat so you probably did see that as well. These should all be blooming now.

Posted by: Wanda - Chisago County
on: 2017-06-21 21:03:57

Along the edge of County Road 14 between North Branch and Chisago City.

Posted by: Terry S - Twin Cities
on: 2017-07-13 06:59:48

Question: Have you found the distinction in stem count per clump (up to 5 for canescens, 12+ for caroliniense) to be consistent in the field?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-15 17:22:37

Terry, without going back through the image catalog to confirm, our recollection is the clump size you mention is probably reasonable.

Posted by: Bev - Crow-Hassan Park
on: 2020-06-03 18:52:41

This is a new plant to me. Not many stands. Growing amidst and blooming alongside lupines. Lovely.

Posted by: karl D - Lake Bemidji SP - Beltrami County
on: 2021-05-25 14:10:24

the location seems like slightly out of the range, But my photo has 10 blossoms coming off the central stem. The photo does not show any leaves clearly. Found in an open Jack Pine stand along a wide trail - sandy soil.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-05-25 20:19:06

Karl D, you probably have hoary puccoon rather than Carolina puccoon.

Posted by: JayPea - Roseau County
on: 2024-05-09 15:38:30

No one has mentioned the divine scent of the puccoon flower. I think we only have the hoary puccoon this far north, but they smell very beautifully. I am seeing less and less flowers of any kind, as I live in a mostly farming area, so puccoon flowers are getting very hard to find.

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