Onosmodium bejariense (False Gromwell)

Plant Info
Also known as: Soft-hair Marbleseed, Western Marbleseed
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, open woods, bluffs
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

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

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 mostly white, ½ to ¾ inch long, with 5 hairy, green to yellow-tinged, 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.

[photo of calyx, var. occidentale and var. hispidissimum] The calyx holding the flower has 5 narrow lobes; depending on the variety the lobes are about as long as the floral tube or much shorter. The calyx and flower stalks are densely hairy.

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, bristly hairy, toothless and stalkless, with several deep veins, alternately attached, reduced to bracts in the upper plant. Stems are covered in spreading, bristly hairs. Multiple stems arise from a woody root, often branching in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a smooth nutlet that ripens from green to brown to white, somewhat conical to egg-shaped.

[photo of var. occidentale nutlets] Depending on the variety, the nutlet may be 2.5 to 3 mm long, dull and constricted just above the base forming a collar, or 3.5 to 5 mm long, shiny and without a collar at the base.


False Gromwell is a fairly common species of dry to mesic sandy or gravelly prairies and open woods. It is a fairly distinctive species, but the taxonomy of this species seems to be far from settled; it's been known as a single species with 4 varieties (or subspecies) as well as 4 separate species and, depending on the reference, goes under genus Lithospermum or Onosmodium. As of this writing, the taxonomy most often cited is Onosmodium bejariense with 4 varieties, 2 of which are in Minnesota:

  • var. hispidissimum (a.k.a. Lithospermum parviflorum, Onosmodium molle var. hispidissimum, O. hispidissimum, O. carolinianum) can reach heights up to 4 feet, is quite coarsely and densely hairy, has flowers with a shorter tube, calyx lobes about as long as the floral tube, and dull, collared nutlets not more than 3 mm long.
  • var. occidentale (a.k.a. L. occidentale, O. molle var. occidentale, O. occidentale), is the more common, a smaller plant, more loosely hairy, has flowers with a longer tube, calyx lobes much shorter than the tube, and shiny, uncollared nutlets more than 3 mm long.

The two varieties not found in Minnesota, var. subsetosum and var. bejariense, both have a limited range in the south-central states, the former a hairless to sparsely hairy plant, the latter with appressed hairs, flowers with long, tapering lobes at the tip and nutlets with a pitted texture.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lac Qui Parle WMA. Photos by 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

Posted by: Earl Anderson
on: 2020-06-09 19:59:21

Frances Densmore, in Chippewa Customs (1929), reprinted by Minnesota Historical Society (1979), at pages 108-9, notes that the seeds of this plant were used by Ojibwe in "love charms." She cites Onosmodium hispidissimum, also called "Mackenzie" and "false gromwell." The seeds were stashed, along with other herbs and carved wooden images of a man and a woman, in a pouch or bag that was carried by the person who wished to attract a specific individual of the opposite gender.

Posted by: Kay Maher - extreme western Stearns County, near the Stearns/Todd line
on: 2023-07-02 15:16:33

I have observed these for several years growing on either side of the Lake Wobegon Trail in extreme western Stearns county, near the Stearns/Todd county line {west of Sauk Centre). Last evening I observed a large Bumblebee and several Monarch butterflies on them.

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