Froelichia floridana (Prairie Cottonweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Plains Snakecotton, Florida Snake-cotton, Field Snake-cotton
Family:Amaranthaceae (Amaranth)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; sandy soil; open prairies, along railroads
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:24 to 40 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: spike

[photo of flowers] Dense spikes 1 to 4 inches long of small, conical flowers set in a tight spiral, with 5 flowers completing one turn of the stem; about 18 flowers per 1/3 inch of spike. Flowers lack petals but are formed by a calyx densely covered in woolly hairs that has a small creamy colored star-shaped opening at the tip with an orange-brown center. Inside the tube is a column of stamens and a single style. Flowers bloom from the bottom of the spike up, a spike growing to a length of 3 to 4 inches at maturity but earlier blooms fall from the stalk as they mature. A plant typically has a few to several spikes on a few branching stems, often with 1 to 4 spikes along the stem, the largest spike at the tip of the stem; the terminal spikes typically become nodding.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, restricted to about the lower third of the plant, 2 to 5 inches long, ½ to 1 inch wide, lance elliptic, toothless, pointed or blunt at the tip, with or without a leaf stalk, silky hairy, often covered by fine, cobwebby hairs when young. Stems are stiff and erect, somewhat quadrangular and covered with fine flattened hairs to downy, longer hairs. Hairs are gray, white or brown.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing fruit] A 1-seeded fruit develops inside the persistent calyx tube, the woolly hairs unfurling as the seed matures, the entire structure eventually dropping off.


Prairie Cottonweed is only found on some of our sandiest soils. As an annual, the plant's characteristics change with age, early plants are more compact and covered by fine hairs and the flower spikes are short and erect. Older plants lose the fine longer hairs in their leaves and the spike becomes elongated, weighing the stem down so that it nods to one side.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dakota and Goodhue counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Sherburne counties.


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

Posted by: Victoria - Jordan, Scott County, Minnesota
on: 2011-08-27 13:30:40

Railroad Right-of-way, Jordan, Scott County, Minnesota.

Posted by: Brian - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA near Cottage Grove.
on: 2012-07-22 14:51:29

In bloom now at Grey Cloud Dunes SNA near Cottage Grove.

Posted by: Julian - Grey Cloud Dunes, southwestern Washington County
on: 2015-08-17 20:20:13

Blooming profusely, together with millions of Partridge Pea, on 2015-08-17.

Posted by: Brett1 - Uncas Dunes SNA & Sand Dunes State Forest
on: 2015-08-30 13:38:02

Have noticed them at both places but not in great numbers. A few plants here and there.

Posted by: Gretchen - Weaver dunes
on: 2016-08-14 16:51:39

Blooming flowers, sporadic, good year for sand prairie with the moisture! :)

Posted by: Dale Blount - Kellogg-Weaver Dunes SNA
on: 2018-08-19 16:39:32

Seen in both north and south parcels. August 19,2018

Posted by: Brett W - Sherburne County
on: 2020-08-26 21:07:41

I take back what I said in 2015...Thousands in Sand Dunes now. Maybe because of Covid and they socially distanced themselves from mowing here this year.

Posted by: Karen Miller - Central WI
on: 2021-07-28 13:59:01

I found these on our property in one area. I have NEVER seen these before.

Posted by: Daniela - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA
on: 2022-08-08 16:35:55

blooming now at grey cloud dunes, great little wildflower i don't see otherwise!

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