Antennaria plantaginifolia (Plantain-leaved Pussytoes)

Plant Info
Also known as: Woman's Tobacco, Plain-leaf Pussytoes
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, thickets
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:4 to 16 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: indistinct Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in a rounded cluster about 1 inch across at the top of the plant, made up of 4 to 16 grayish white flower heads ¼ to 1/3 inch long. The flower heads look like little shaving brushes, with tiny scaly bracts.

[photo of male flowers] There are separate male and female flowers on different plants. The male flowers are less furry looking and have brown stamens protruding from the white flowers.

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

[photo of leaves] There is a clump of basal leaves near the main stem, but separate from it. Most basal leaves are broadly spoon shaped, up to 3 inches long and to 1½ inches wide, with a round tip and 3 to 5 prominent veins down the middle. Stem leaves are up to 1½ inches long and about ¼ inch wide, toothless, alternately attached with no leaf stem. All leaves are covered in woolly hairs, giving them a gray-green color. The main stem is also covered in woolly hairs. The stem often angles or leans over in the upper part of the plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

Fruit is a tiny brown seed with a tuft of white hair attached to carry it off in the wind.


There are 6 species of pussytoes in Minnesota and all are similar. Two distinguishing features are the number of prominent veins, best seen on the back of the basal leaves, and whether the leaves are woolly hairy or relatively hairless. Plantain-leaved Pussytoes have hairy leaves and at least 3 prominent veins on the leaves. Field Pussytoes also have woolly leaves, but they are much smaller and have just 1 prominent vein, though I've often seen 2 additional faint veins on the back. Plantain-leaved Pussytoes tend to grow in clumps. Distinguishing characteristics with the other 4 species are TBD,

Pussytoes were one of my assigned species in the Prairie Care program at Wild River State Park. This particular species seems to thrive in the “mow zone” along the sides of trails and roads, especially at the edges of woods where there is dappled sunlight. The first year I monitored them I discovered American Painted Lady caterpillars nesting in the leaves. It was interesting to watch their progress week after week.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County.


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

Posted by: Jody K.
on: 2009-04-26 21:12:49

Thanks for all the id help your site gives this prairie rookie. Now that you have helped me id the nasty worms eating my tiny Pussytoe patch, I feel bad for squishing baby Ladypillars. So, can I move the Ladypillars to another plant or do I let them eat my Toes? Will the Toes come back? If not, what will the Ladies eat next year?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-04-26 22:48:54

When I first found the caterpillars I asked the Wild River park naturalist pretty much the same questions. His answer was that this is the natural order of things, so not to worry. There were plenty of pussytoes the following year, so yours should be fine.

Posted by: Lisa - Houston County
on: 2011-05-08 02:03:12

Saw pussytoes of some type on April 30, 2011, on a somewhat steep prairie slope in the Reno Unit of the Richard J. Dorer Forest (very close to where I saw the sedge, which I also e-mailed on).

Posted by: Chelsea - Harmony, MN
on: 2014-05-26 21:51:58

I saw two big patches of these behind the minigolf course outside of Niagara Caves in Harmony. I thought one patch was more mature than the other, but your information confirms that one patch was male flowers, the other female. Thanks for your help!

Posted by: Kacie - Grand Rapids (Itasca County)
on: 2016-05-08 17:28:28

Hey, Katy - I've got what looks like pussy toes taking over my yard (1/2-day of sun) in Grand Rapids. Have you ever seen them do this (much like an invasive), or do I have something else in my hands?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-09 03:25:04

Kacie, pussytoes are rhizomatous and will form colonies, sometimes rather sizable ones. Based on recent information on species ranges, what you have in your area is more likely Antennaria parlinii than A. plantaginifolia. They are very similar.

Posted by: Kacie
on: 2016-05-12 16:15:04

Thanks, Katy! That'll help to reassure my neighbors that I'm not harboring weeds over here. :)

Posted by: Pat - Lakeville
on: 2016-05-29 11:36:36

I have quite a few patches of pussytoes that were planted 2 years ago as part of a back yard native perinatal garden. I recently noticed that several are covered with caterpillars that appear to be destroying the plants. What can I do organically to get rid of these pests? Will they feed on any other native MN plants?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-29 15:09:26

Pat, the caterpillars are not pests - pussytoes are a host plant for American painted lady butterflies! This is the natural order of things and the plants will not die from it.

Posted by: Ninivee
on: 2017-04-24 12:33:12

I have pussytoe plants growing in my parkway. how can I stop them from spreading or kill them? Thanks for any help you can provide. Ninivee

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-04-24 13:03:50

Ninivee, you cannot stop them from spreading - it's the way they naturally grow. Just pull them up around the edge of the colony to keep them contained. If you don't want to go to that trouble then yank them all out.

Posted by: josh - Twin Cities
on: 2017-06-04 20:44:41

I transplanted some pussytoes from a friends cabin in Northern Minnesota a couple of years ago, this year after they bloomed it seems as if they have died back entirely. The leaves are crispy and the plants just seem dead. I do not believe they have been over or underwatered.

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