Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox)
|Also known as:||Ground Pink, Moss Pink, Moss Phlox|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; barrens, woods, rock ledges, gardens|
|Plant height:||2 to 6 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Clusters of up to 9 slender-stalked flowers at the tips of branches. Flowers are about ¾ inch across with 5 petals that are fused at the base into a long, slender tube, typically with a dark “eye” around the mouth of the tube. Petal shape varies from narrowly wedge-shaped to elliptic to nearly round and usually has a notch at the tip. Color ranges from white to pink to blue-violet. Inside the tube are 5 stamens of unequal lengths and a 3-parted style. The 5 sepals cupping the flower are shorter than the floral tube, narrowly lance-linear with a pointed tip. Sepals and flower stalks are hairy and green or more often purplish.
Leaves and stems:
Stems are prostrate, somewhat woody, hairy, freely branched, rooting at the nodes and creating dense mats up to 3 feet in diameter, with the purplish flowering branches held erect or rising at the tip (decumbent).
Fruit is a capsule
Native in the eastern US, Creeping Phlox has long been available in the nursery trade, primarily marketed as a ground cover and for rock gardens and border plantings, with dozens of cultivars of varying flower colors and petal shapes. It does occasionally escape cultivation and is considered adventive in New England, from Michigan west (including Minnesota), and south of Tennessee. We came upon it planted in a graveyard in Carlton County where it obviously took a liking and spread much farther than originally intended. It seems only a matter of time before it takes off down the road. That's how these things sometimes manage to get into the wild. There are 3 varieties of Phlox subulata; they are not well documented but 2 apparently have limited ranges in the eastern US and may be glandular hairy, with var. subulata the most common and having non-glandular hairs.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- mats of white and pink flowered Creeping Phlox
- Creeping Phlox spreading through a graveyard
- a mat of budding branches
- garden-grown cultivar 'Candy Stripe', some with 6 petals
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Sandy Lake Cemetery in Carlton County, and in a private garden in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?