Polanisia jamesii (James' Polanisia)

Plant Info
Also known as: James' Cristatella
Family:Cleomaceae (Spider Flower)
Life cycle:annual
  • State Endangered
Habitat:sun; dry sand or gravel prairie, eroding slopes along Mississippi River blufflands
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:4 to 10 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: irregular

[photo of flowers] Single flowers in the leaf axils in the upper plant. Flowers are 1/8 to ¼ inch across, very irregular, the petals white to yellowish with ragged or irregularly notched edges. A pair of broad petals stand erect, with a lower, smaller pair wrapped around the central tubular nectary. 6 to 9 yellow stamens and a single yellow-green style project out below the lower petals and nectary. The four sepals are lance shaped with sticky glandular hairs on the outer surface, and are longer than the lower petals but shorter than the upper petals. The slender flower stalks are ¼ to ½ inch long and also covered in glandular hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, compound in 3s, on a slender ¼ to ½ inch stalk. The center leaflet is up to 1 inch long and 1/8 inch wide; the side leaflets are ½ to 2/3 its length. Leaves and stems covered in short, sticky glandular hairs that exude a sharp skunky odor when touched. Stems are erect and often much branched in the upper plant,

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a linear pod, slightly inflated, up to 1 inch long and 1/8 inch in diameter, covered short glandular hairs.

[photo of ripe seed pod] The pods dry to a light brown and split open at the top revealing the reddish brown seed.


Minnesota's populations of James' Polanisia, formerly Cristatella jamesii, are disjunct from its primary range in the south central Great Plains, west of the Mississippi River where it grows on dry, sand prairies. In the Upper Midwest it is rare, restricted to sandy or gravelly prairies and slopes near the Mississippi River. According to the DNR it was listed as endangered in Minnesota in 1984 and is largely at risk from encroachment of woody and invasive species, which shade out this sun-loving plant. The other Polanisia species in MInnesota is Red-whisker Clammyweed (P. dodecandra). It can occur in the same sandy locations where James' Polanisia is found but is far more widespread across the state and is easily distinguished by its larger size, large elliptical leaflets, and typically deep reddish sepals and stamens.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Pine Bend SNA, Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Washington counties.


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

Posted by: Aaron McGuire - Hastings Sand Coulee SNA
on: 2022-07-24 22:15:52

Saw several plants growing in the sandy soils at Hastings Sand Coulee SNA.

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