Onosmodium molle (False Gromwell)

Plant Info
Also known as: Soft-hair Marbleseed
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 4 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: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A 1-sided raceme to 6 inches long of nodding, short-stalked tubular flowers. Flowers are white or tinged yellow or green, ½ to ¾ inch long, covered in short hairs, with 5 triangular lobes at the tip that close the mouth of the tube. A long white style projects from the tube like a large stinger; the style remains long after the petals wilt away. The calyx holding the flower has 5 narrow lobes; depending on the variety are about half as long as the floral tube or as long as the tube.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, ½ to 1½ inches wide, lance to narrowly egg-shaped, toothless and stalkless, with several deep veins, alternately attached, reduced to bracts in the upper plant. Leaves are bristly hairy, depending on the variety densely covered in appressed hairs, or less densely covered with more spreading hairs. Stems are covered in bristly hairs. Multiple stems arise from a woody root, often branching in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of var. hispidissimum fruit] Fruit is a smooth nutlet that ripens from green to brown to white, somewhat conical to egg-shaped. The nutlet may dull and constricted just above the base forming a collar, or shiny and without a collar.


False Gromwell goes by several Latin names, including Onosmodium bejariense and Lithospermum occidentale, but the accepted name in Minnesota is Onosmodium molle. There are 2 varieties in Minnesota: var. hispidissimum can reach heights up to 4 feet, is quite coarsely and conspicuously hairy, has the long calyx lobes and the dull, collared nutlets; var. occidentale, the more common, is a smaller plant, more loosely hairy, and has the short calyx lobes and shiny, uncollared nutlets. A third variety not found in Minnesota, var. molle, is a more southern species with pitted nutlets.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lac Qui Parle WMA. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lac Qui Parle and Dakota counties.


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

Posted by: Carole - New London, MN
on: 2012-01-13 17:40:18

Gernes family prairie, 4 miles SW of Sibley State Park; Kandiyohi County.

Posted by: Victoria - Shakopee, MN
on: 2012-01-17 22:23:05

I saw this plant in 2009 near a roadside in Shakopee (County Road 16) in sandy soils. But I haven't seen it in that area since they punched a new road through the area (County Road 21) and expanded County 16 around the new intersection.

Posted by: Dave - Morris
on: 2013-03-07 14:04:37

Although the map does not show this plant in Stevens County, MN, I have found it near the railroad tracks by the ethanol plant on the south side of Morris.

Posted by: Hedera - Ottertail co, along West Battle Lake (north side)
on: 2013-08-05 11:22:23

I believe it to be Onosmodium molle var. occidentale. Have noticed it in 8-2011 & 8-2012 on undeveloped land that was mowed (occasionally) prior to 2010. Sandy soil.

Posted by: Larry - Golden Valley
on: 2013-09-01 21:19:48

I saw a group of these plants at the Rapids Lake Unit of MRVAC. They were in a sunny area of a dry, gravel slope. I also saw 1 plant at Hastings Sand Prairie.

Posted by: Paul - Ottawa Bluffs, a few miles east of St. Peter, LeSueur County
on: 2014-06-09 15:19:25

Saw a few of these, hillsides, gravelly soil, June 7, 2014.

Posted by: Matt - Kasota Prairie
on: 2015-06-25 20:14:06

I saw over a dozen of this species in the Kasota Prairie just outside of the parking lot.

Posted by: Becky W - prairie woods environmental learning center, New London, MN
on: 2016-09-24 18:46:48

seen today, non-blooming, during wild flower and grass seed collection activity on grounds at PWELC

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