Androsace septentrionalis (Northern Androsace)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Fairy Candelabra, Pygmy-flower Rock Jasmine
Genus:Androsace
Family:Primulaceae (Primrose)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Special Concern
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] 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. 

[photo of bracts] At the base of the cluster is a whorl of lance-linear, leaf-like bracts, each up to about 1/8 inch long. Flower stalks are unequal in length.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a smooth, round capsule about 1/8 inch in diameter containing up to 20 seeds.

Notes:

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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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Kittson County.

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