Spergularia rubra (Red Sand Spurrey)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed sandy or gravelly soil; roadsides, empty lots, gravel pits
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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 flowers] Small clusters of stalked flowers at branch tips and arising singly from leaf axils along branching stems. Flowers are about ¼ inch across with 5 oval petals, pink to lavender but paler at the base. In the center are 6 to 10 yellow-tipped stamens and a 3-parted style.

[photo of sepals] Surrounding the base of the flower, alternating with the petals, are 5 sepals that are narrower and about as long as the petals with thin, translucent edging. Sepals and flower stalks are covered in glandular hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, or whorled in groups of 3 to 5 irregularly spaced around the stem and may be clustered on one side. Leaves are toothless, hairless, stalkless, up to about ½ inch long, linear tapering to a pointed tip, often with a short spine or hair-like extension at the apex. At the base of the leaf cluster is a pair of appendages (stipules) that are thin, silvery white, lance-shaped with a long taper to a slender tip, and up to about ¼ inch long. Stems are branched from the base, mostly sprawling creating mats, and variously covered in glandular hairs though often smooth on the lower stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an oval capsule about as long as the persistent sepals, containing many small reddish to dark brown seeds.


Red Sand Spurrey is an occasional roadside weed but likely under-reported in the state, possibly overlooked due to its tiny size. It is not likely to be confused with any other species in Minnesota; its short stature (when sprawling rarely much more than a few inches tall), clustered leaf arrangement, conspicuous stipules, and glandular hairs should distinguish it from other species with small, pink, 5-petaled flowers. A related species, Salt-marsh Sand Spurrey (Spergularia salina or S. marina), not known to be in Minnesota but present in surrounding states, has flowers with fewer than 6 stamens, leaves mostly opposite without spine at the tip, and less conspicuous stipules.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Pine County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Cook and Pine counties.


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

Posted by: Katy O'Sullivan - Brimson
on: 2018-07-10 13:44:17

I found this tiny plant during late June/mid-July growing in sand/gravel along a roadside by complete chance. It's only an inch or under in height, so was not visible until I was directly upon it. It seems that the flowers open only in sunlight, not with a cloudy sky, so are not always noticeable.

Posted by: Steve Rice - 4 miles over the border in Douglas county Wi
on: 2018-09-14 15:10:40

I just wanted to compliment you on this site. I first discovered these little guys in my front yard, growing along our front path. Tiny pink flowers caught my eye and I was immediately hooked. Last summer I dug up a tiny plant and potted it. I repotted it a few weeks ago into a larger pot. While It is not the most "beautiful" plant around, It's curiously graceful but quirky appearance and growth habits make it a delightful addition. I will admit that when it "recycles" there are more dead parts than living. Nevertheless, I'm enjoying it. On a side note, I've noticed a few tiny little bee-like bugs checking out the flowers. Pollinators this small also fall under everyone's observation level and go unnoticed, much like the red sand spurrey itself. Finally, I have seen a couple of references to Finland. Any significance in that? Respectfully, Steve Rice

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-09-14 18:57:25

Steve, Finland, MN, is in Lake County, north of Silver Bay.

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