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; dry; open woods, thickets, bluffs
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:4 to 9 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

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: flat Cluster type: round

[photo of female flowers] Four to 17+ flower heads in a flat to rounded cluster at the top of the stem, with separate male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flower heads are ¼ to 1/3 inch long and look like little shaving brushes, with numerous thread-like styles at the top and the head surrounded by a series of bracts (called phyllaries), each phyllary green and firm (somewhat leaf-like) at the base and thin and white (more petal-like) at the tip. Individual flowers are 3 to 4 mm (to 1/6 inch) long and the set of phyllaries (called the involucre) is 5 to 7 mm (max .28 inch) long at maturity.

[photo of male flowers] The male flowers are less furry looking, in rounded heads with scaly white flowers that have a brown column of stamens protruding from the center. The involucre on male flower heads is 5 to 7 mm long with individual flowers 2 to 4 mm long.

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

[photo of basal leaf clumps] Leaves are basal and alternate. Basal leaves are 1¼ to 3 inches long and up to 1½ inches wide, toothless, broadly spoon or spatula-shaped, rounded at the tip, tapering to a winged stalk, and with 3 to 5 prominent veins (rarely 7) that are most easily seen on the back of the leaf. The lower surface is silvery white from dense matted hairs, the upper surface gray-green and also covered in matted white hairs but more thinly hairy than the lower surface. Basal leaves tend to persist to the next season before shriveling up and disintegrating.

[photo of stem and upper leaf] Stem leaves are lance-linear, up to 1½ inches long and about ¼ inch wide, toothless, stalkless, woolly hairy, and widely spaced along the stem. Stems are erect, green to reddish, covered in long, white, matted hairs. Horizontal, above ground stems (stolons) emerge from basal leaf clumps, spreading in all directions, initially ascending then become prostrate, rooting at the nodes and forming colonies. Colonies of male plants tend to be separate from females, but are close by.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

Fruit is a brown seed .5 to 1.6 mm long with a tuft of white hair (pappus) attached to carry it off in the wind. Hairs are 3.5 to 5.5 mm long.


There are 6 species of Pussytoes in Minnesota and they are a tough group, but generally put into two categories: those with a single prominent vein on basal leaves (most easily seen on the back of a mature leaf), and those with 3 (or more) prominent veins. Note that early leaves even on some 1-veined species may have faint lateral veins which can make identification questionable, in which case examining any old basal leaves persisting from the previous season might help make a more confident determination.

In the case of Plantain-leaved Pussytoes, in Minnesota only Parlin's Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii) also has 3+ prominent veins and the two are similar in most other respects as well, which makes them easily confused. It doesn't help that these two species were considered vars of a single species for a time. That fact is evident in the Bell Herbarium records as well—the current records put both species widespread in the state when more recent research limits A. plantaginifolia to the driftless area in our southeast counties. This won't be corrected until some adventurous soul examines all of the old specimens and makes changes accordingly, though the vast majority of current A. plantaginifolia records should become A. parlinii.

Besides the location within or outside the driftless area, the most notable differences between A. plantaginifolia and A. parlinii are in the flower sizes and hairiness of basal leaves. The leaf difference is the more subtle distinction, with the upper surface of A. plantaginifolia usually more woolly and gray-green where A. parlinii is often (not always) more green, sometimes hairless (subsp. parlinii) or initially hairy and may become hairless with age (subsp. fallax). Flower and fruit sizes are a more consistent difference, with all parts of A. plantaginifolia smaller than A. parlinii—female involucre 5 to 7 mm (max .28 inch) vs. 7 to 13 mm (max .5 inch), seeds .5 to 1.6 mm vs. 1 to 2 mm, pappus 3.5 to 5.5 mm vs. 5 to 8 mm. A metric ruler may be helpful. Also, A. plantaginifolia male plants are almost always present where A. parlinii males may or may not.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • ReWild Native Gardens
  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants

More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston 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.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.