Lithospermum canescens (Hoary Puccoon)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Lithospermum
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry; prairies, rocky open woods, along roads and railroads
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:6 to 18 inches
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: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: flat Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Single, short-stalked flowers in the axils of 1 to 3 arching branches at the top of the stem, giving the appearance of a (more or less) flat cluster at the top of the plant. Flowers are orange-yellow, ½ inch across, tubular with 5 flaring, rounded petal-like lobes. The stamens are hidden inside the slender tube.

[photo of sepals] The 5 sepals at the base of the tube are narrowly triangular, less than ¼ inch long, and covered in long silky hairs. The flowering branches elongate as the plant matures, with flowers open at the tip and fruit forming below. The leafy bracts at the base of the flowers are more rounded at the tip, typically widest at the tip end, and become progressively smaller as they ascend the branch.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 2½ inches long and to ½ inch wide, narrowly lance-oblong with a blunt point at the tip and no stalk. Leaf edges are toothless, hairy, the upper surface sparsely hairy, the underside more densely and softly hairy. Stems are multiple from the base (up to 5), covered in long, soft, gray hairs, and usually unbranched except in the flowers.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a small, hard, egg-shaped nutlet, initially gray-brown, becoming bright shiny white when mature.

Notes:

Hoary Puccoon is very similar to Carolina Puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense), which has larger (1-inch) flowers, the sepals are likewise longer, and the stem hairs shorter, more sparse and more bristly hairy where Hoary Puccoon is softly hairy.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Goodhue County, at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Washington County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.

Comments

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

Posted by: Petyer
on: 2009-12-12 08:06:29

Both this and the closely related Hairy Puccoon (L. caroliniense) have not gone unnoticed by the horticulture industry. Unfortunately no one has figured out how to propagate it reliably. The plant's deep, strong root system will not tolerate any kind of transplanting and years of study at the UofM St. Paul revealed that, for reasons unknown, viable seed set is rare.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2009-12-12 17:46:06

Dave Crawford told me he tried to grow some from seed collected at Wild River SP. He actually got some sprouts, but they didn't survive more than a couple years.

Some plants have symbiotic relationships with fungi, microbes or other stuff in the soil and can't survive without them. Maybe puccoon is like that, they just haven't figured out what that special thing is yet.

Posted by: K - Montevideo
on: 2010-05-27 22:41:55

Just found some in the roadside west outside of Montevideo.

Posted by: Joel - Wild River State Park
on: 2010-05-31 22:13:16

This is blooming in Wild River State Park right now. Very beautiful

Posted by: marty - St. Louis Park
on: 2011-02-02 21:50:50

Marie Sperka's book "Growing Wildflowers" (out of print but available on Amazon.com) says it can be propagated by root cuttings (I haven't tried it but have found her advice in general to be reliable: use roots about the size of a wood pencil; cut into 2" pieces. Cut the top portion of the root straight across and the bottom at an angle---your signal to plant it right side up. Set cuttings in sand or sandy loam about 1" deep and keep slightly moist. These cuttings usually root in one year and some may even bloom the 2nd year. If roots break off while digging, new shoots will develop and another plant will grow from the portion left in the soil. Often several eyes are formed on the stub and a plant with a multiple crown is born.

At our cabin in the sand/pine barrens of WI, they seem to proliferate.

Posted by: Gretchen - St. Croix State park- East of Hinckley
on: 2011-06-29 13:47:38

Blooming or at teh end of its bloom along the entrance road into the park as well as in our restoration area. Cool!

Posted by: K. Schmitt - minnesota river valley, Jordan
on: 2011-07-27 15:29:42

These were one of my favorite wildflowers growing up. They thrive in our sandy soil and I learned early that they were best appreciated in the ground rather than wilting in a vase. I have always wondered what they were called. I called them little buttercups.

Posted by: Ken - Crow Wing State Park
on: 2012-06-16 12:29:30

In the prairie restoration area as you enter the park

Posted by: Ken - Livonia Township, Sherburne County
on: 2012-07-12 22:05:42

This is fairly common along the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Drive. This year (2012) was a good year for it. It also pops up here and there along the roads on our part of the sand plain. There is no other flower with this same wonderful yellow hue.

Posted by: JayPea - Roseau County
on: 2013-06-11 23:14:40

This is blooming profusely right now in the roadsides here. I transplanted some successfully one year. It was growing right in the gravel on the edge of the road and the grader had scraped the shoulders back, slicing under the plant so it was sitting free in a flap of sod. I picked up the piece of sod and took it home. It grew and flowered several years and then simply didn't come up any more. Beautiful plant and very fragrant.

Posted by: Bill - Pennington
on: 2014-06-07 19:39:11

Many of the dryer ditches have these little gems blooming. A little late this year in June

Posted by: Paul - Ottawa Bluffs, a few miles east of St. Peter
on: 2014-06-09 15:16:20

Counted three of these in bloom on June 7, all on higher ground near the edge of paths, ridges, etc.

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