Androsace septentrionalis (Northern Androsace)
|Also known as:||Northern Fairy Candelabra, Pygmy-flower Rock Jasmine|
|Life cycle:||annual, short-lived perennial|
|Habitat:||sun; dry, sandy or gravelly soil; grasslands, open woods, tundra|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||1 to 10 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: none NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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5 to 20 tiny white flowers on slender stalks radiate from the end of the stems. The flowers are very tiny, less than 1/8 inch, have 5 fused petals with distinct lobes that may be erect or spreading. The tubular calyx holding the flower is smooth to minutely hairy, has 5 sharply pointed erect lobes about as long as or slightly shorter than the flower, and often turns red with age.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are in a tight basal rosette, lance-elliptic to linear, up to ¾ inch long, toothless or with shallow teeth, minutely hairy, tapering at both ends, and stalkless. A plant typically has multiple stems from the base but is unbranched; stems are minutely hairy.
Northern Androsace is a circumpolar and highly variable species that may be spindly or robust, long or short stalked, glandular hairy or not, apparently depending on growing conditions such as altitude and amount of sunlight. There is some discussion on whether the variability is deserving of separate species or subspecies, but there are no definitive answers at this time. Northern Androsace is common in alpine areas and is the most common Androsace species in western North America. In Minnesota, it rarely gets much more than a few inches tall and is associated with sunny, sandy prairie on glacial beach ridges. Minnesota is on the eastern edge of its range and it's only known from a handful of locations in 3 northwest counties. According to the DNR, due to its habitat requirement and apparent rarity in the state, it was listed as a Special Concern species in 1996. It is easily distingushed from the related Western Rock Jasmine (Androsace occidentalis), which is even smaller in stature and has broader, egg-shaped bracts at the base of the flower cluster.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Kittson County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?