Packera indecora (Elegant Groundsel)
|Also known as:||Rayless Mountain Ragwort|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist, cool rocky or gravelly soil, stream banks, lakeshores, wet woods, bogs|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||12 to 30 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: none NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Candelabra-like cluster of 6 to 20 yellow flowers at the top of the stem. Individual flowers typically have no rays (petals), or when present, they are not more than ¼ inch long and usually number 8 to 10, though some of our specimens had 13 rays. The barrel shaped calyx below the central disk is ¼ to over 1/3 inch long, the tips of the bracts deep red. The long flower stalks are fairly stout, ridged, and hairless or with scattered cob-webby hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and mostly basal, thin with smooth surfaces, generally egg-shaped, the blade up to 2¼ inches long and 1½ inches wide, coarsely toothed to serrate or scalloped around the edges, and long stalked. The base may be slightly tapered, slightly heart-shaped, or straight.
Stem leaves are alternate, widely spaced, increasingly deeply lobed as they ascend the stem, the uppermost very small and stalkless. Stems are single or a few from the base, unbranched and smooth except for discernible vertical ridges and fine cob-webby hairs around the leaf axils and scattered towards the flower cluster.
Elegant Groundsel is native to North America but restricted to northern continental latitudes and higher altitudes in the western Rockies. This association with near arctic temperatures explains why it is rare in the Great Lakes Region, with present or historical locations near the Canadian border or near Lake Superior where water temperatures mitigate higher summer temperatures. According to the DNR, in 1996 it was listed as a Special Concern species but elevated to Endangered in 2013. In Minnesota, earlier documented sites along the northern borders of St. Louis and Cook counties have never been relocated. Presently the only known population is in a cool rocky canyon of a Northshore stream in Cook county. We first observed it at this canyon in mid-June of 2012 but it was just prior to flowering. Seven days later, the extreme torrential rains that caused extensive damage all along the Northshore struck. Returning (with some apprehension) mid-July of 2013, we were pleased to find robust specimens (though fewer in number) just coming into bloom. While right on the canyon floor, its location apparently protected it from the worst of the scouring currents and in fact considerable amounts of up stream soils had been deposited around where they resided, bringing native shrubs, ferns and forbs we had not observed the previous year. Unfortunately, also brought in were significant populations of non-native invasives such as tansy, oxeye daisy, and both orange and yellow hawkweed. Will this last of the known Minnesota populations ultimately succumb to the ferocious competition of these non-natives? At present, there are no conservation efforts being made at this location so only time will tell. Of note is that most references describe the presence of ray flowers as rare but our images show them in all specimens photographed. According to the University of Michigan Herbarium, rayed flowers are apparently more typical in populations around Lake Superior.
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- Elegant Groundsel habitat threatened by invasive species: orange and yellow hawkweeds, tansy and oxeye daisy
- budding plant
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in a rocky creek bed near Lake Superior, Cook County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?