Circaea lutetiana (Enchanter's Nightshade)

Plant Info
Also known as: Broadleaf Enchanter's Nightshade
Genus:Circaea
Family:Onagraceae (Evening Primrose)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:shade; moist woods, thickets
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
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: 4-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Loose cluster of stalked flowers (raceme) more or less evenly spaced along the top of the stem, often with a few lateral racemes from the base of the cluster and/or the uppermost axils. Flowers are white to pinkish, 1/8 to ¼ inch in diameter, with 2 divided petals deeply notched that can look like 4, 2 long white stamens projecting from the center, and 2 sepals that bend back away from the flower with the hairy ovary beneath them. Flower and cluster stalks are covered in short white hairs.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite with pairs at right angles to the pair below, up to 5 inches long and 3 inches wide, toothed around the edges, narrowly to broadly egg-shaped to oblong, tapering to a point at the tip, on a stalk 1 to 2 inches long. Leaves become rather smaller towards the top of the plant. Stems below the flower clusters are mostly hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a small, teardrop shaped, 2-chambered capsule densely covered in hooked hairs that grab onto anything that passes by.

Notes:

Enchanter's Nightshade spreads by both seed and rhizomes, often creating small colonies in woodlands across much of Minnesota. There are recognized 2 varieties (or subspecies, depending on the reference): var. canadensis (also known as Circia canadensis) is the North American species and var. quadrisulcata (C. quadrisulcata) its Eurasian counterpart. Closely related is Alpine Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea alpina), a much smaller plant which has open flowers all clustered at the top of the raceme rather than along the stem, and rarely gets more than 10 inches tall at maturity.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.

Comments

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

Posted by: Karen - Mille Lacs, western side
on: 2011-07-20 15:53:32

Bountiful in the area with delicate pink flowers.

Posted by: Carrie Anne - Crow Wing County
on: 2011-07-24 21:17:51

I was just at my parents little spot up north in Ross Lake Township of Crow Wing County (by Aitkin), and I just successfully ID'ed these growing quite well among a host of ferns, grasses, maples, pines, and birch trees. They are just off of Stark Lake. They reminded me of bishop's cap at first. So lovely in the forest, it's amazing how many people miss noticing these small beauties.

Posted by: Beverly - Edina
on: 2015-07-15 14:35:24

In my shady side garden, among the monardas and dicentras. Like Carrie Anne, my first thought was of Mitella.

Posted by: Tim - Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County
on: 2016-06-29 20:38:28

Abundant in shady areas of suburban yard which were allowed to naturalize after the land had been farmed and then managed as a lawn for many years.

Posted by: Lynn - Webster township, Rice County
on: 2016-07-04 18:40:09

Next to the trunks of our green ash trees in our yard. Just noticed them blooming today.

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2016-07-05 19:48:19

Lots of the Alpine and C. lutetiana plants blooming in and around the large planted White pines in Sand Dunes SF on July 3, 2016.

Posted by: Tom - southern Winona County
on: 2017-07-05 09:16:49

Coming up under the edges of a spruce tree in my wildflower garden. Mostly shade, some afternoon sun. New Jersey Tea grows well right next to it.

Posted by: Cathy C - Otter Tail cty
on: 2017-07-26 09:49:41

I have found this plant on my property here near Ottertail, and the little seeds, i.e.-burs, love to hitchhike on my dog's fur. My dog sitter in Little Canada, MN, has a ton of these in his yard and the burs turn my dog green in late summer.

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