Prenanthes racemosa (Glaucous White Lettuce)
|Also known as:||Purple Rattlesnake-root, Smooth Rattlesnake-root|
|Habitat:||sun; moist sandy soil; wet meadows, prairies, stream banks, fens|
|Bloom season:||August - October|
|Plant height:||1 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Tightly packed clusters of short-stalked flowers at the top of the stem and arising from leaf axils in the upper plant. Flower heads are about ½ inch across with 9 to 16 pinkish to white rays (petals) that have a few small teeth at the tip. The styles are longer than the rays and have divided, curved tips; stamens are purplish and shorter than the styles. There are 2 layers of bracts. The outer bracts are very short and dark green or purple. The 7 to 14 inner bracts are usually deep purple, form a tube about ½ inch long, and densely covered in long, white hairs. Flowers are mostly erect to ascending, sometimes nodding. Flower stalks are densely hairy.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are generally elliptic to spatula-shaped, usually broadest above the middle, hairless, toothless or with a few tiny teeth. Lower leaves are up to 10 inches long, to 3 inches wide, with long, winged stalks; leaves become smaller and shorter stalked as they ascend the stem.
Stems are erect, unbranched, green to dark purple or purple spotted, often with a white bloom (glaucous) like on the skin of a plum. Stems are mostly hairless except near the flower clusters, with a few sparse hairs just below the flowers and more densely hairy on the flowering stems and stalks.
Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of pale yellow hairs to carry them off in the wind.
Found primarily in wet meadows and other sunny, moist, grassy areas in late summer, this species is easy to distinguish from other Prenanthes species by the pinkish flowers with hairy, purplish bracts, mostly clasping stem leaves, and smooth stem below the flowers. P. racemosa is known by the synonym Nabalus racemosus in some references.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, McLeod and Otter Tail counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken near Almelund, Chisago County, and at Schaefer Prairie Preserve, McLeod County.
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