Antennaria neglecta (Field Pussytoes)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry fields, prairies, savannas, open woods|
|Bloom season:||April - June|
|Plant height:||4 to 16 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: UPL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Two to 8 flower heads in a flat to rounded cluster at the top of the stem, with separate male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flower heads are about 3/8 inch long and look like little shaving brushes, with numerous thread-like styles at the top and the head surrounded by a series of bracts (called phyllaries), each phyllary green to reddish and firm (somewhat leaf-like) at the base and thin and white (more petal-like) at the tip. Individual flowers are 4.5 to 7 mm (to .28 inch) long and the set of phyllaries (called the involucre) is 6 to 10 mm (max 3/8 inch) long at maturity.
The male flowers are less furry looking, in rounded heads with scaly white flowers that have a brown column of stamens protruding from the center. The involucre on male flower heads is 4 to 7 mm long with individual flowers 2.7 to 5 mm long.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are basal and alternate. Basal leaves are ½ to 2½ inches long and up to ¾ inch wide, toothless, mostly narrowly spatula-shaped, rounded to pointed at the tip, gradually tapering to a stalkless base, and with a single prominent vein, seen on both the front and back of the leaf. The lower surface is silvery white from dense matted hairs, the upper surface gray-green, woolly hairy but may become hairless later in the season. Basal leaves tend to persist to the next season before shriveling up and disintegrating.
Stem leaves are linear, up to 1 inch long and about 1/8 inch wide, toothless, stalkless, woolly hairy, and widely spaced along the stem. At the tip of the mid and upper stem leaves is a short, papery appendage known as a “flag”. Stems are erect, green to reddish, covered in long, white, matted hairs. Horizontal, above ground stems (stolons) emerge from basal leaf clumps, spreading in all directions, rooting at the nodes and forming colonies. Leaves along the stolons are smaller than those in basal clumps. Colonies of male plants tend to be separate from females but are usually close by.
There are 6 species of Pussytoes in Minnesota and they are a tough group, but generally put into two categories: those with a single prominent vein on basal leaves (most easily seen on the back of a mature leaf), and those with 3 (or more) prominent veins. Note that early leaves even on some 1-veined species may have faint lateral veins which can make identification questionable, in which case examining any old basal leaves persisting from the previous season might help make a more confident determination. For the 1-veined species, noting whether males are present can be helpful to an ID, as is examination of the mid and upper stem leaves for a “flag” at the tip (see leaf photo above). Magnification may be required.
In Minnesota, the 1-veined species consist of Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta), Howell's Pussytoes (A. howellii), Small-leaved Pussytoes (A. parvifolia) and Tiny-leaved Pussytoes (A. microphylla). Rosy Pussytoes (A. rosea) has also been reported as present in Minnesota but there are no official records of it. A. neglecta is most consistently distinguished by the combination of: the presence of flags at the tip of mid and upper stem leaves, basal leaves gray-green and woolly hairy on the upper surface at least through flowering time, phyllaries all white at the tip, and usually the presence of both male and female populations near each other.
Most similar is A. howellii, which has multiple subspecies that were once treated as vars of A. neglecta; it has mid and upper leaves not usually flagged, the upper surface of basal leaves is greener and hairless or (often) more thinly hairy than A. neglecta, phyllaries white to creamy yellowish at the tip, and males are rarely present (see A. howellii for further details). A. parvifolia plants are smaller, rarely taller than 4 inches, basal leaves are smaller (all less than 1½ inches long) and more silvery green from denser hairs, and males are very uncommon in Minnesota populations. A. microphylla has the smallest basal leaves of this group, the largest less than 2/3 inch (max 16 mm) long but most ½ inch or less. A. rosea is similar to A. parvifolia but has taller stems and phyllaries are often rosy pink.
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- Field Pussytoes plants
- Field Pussytoes plants
- a colony of male Field Pussytoes
- male and female Field Pussytoes plants
- a large colony of Field Pussytoes, males in the foreground
- like some A. howellii, stolon leaves are smaller than basal leaves
- more flowers
- pinkish flowers
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?