Polanisia dodecandra (Red-whisker Clammyweed)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Cleomaceae (Spider Flower)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; along shores, sandy soil
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
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: 4-petals Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: flat Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers, subsp. dodecandra] A flat cluster 1 to 2 inches across of stalked flowers at the top of branching stems and arising from upper leaf axils. Individual flowers are 3/16 to 3/8 inch long with 4 white notched petals that stand erect, about 10 long wiry red stamens that are at least as long as the petals, and 4 narrowly triangular to egg-shaped sepals that are reddish green.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves near the base of the plant are compound in 3's and stalked; on the upper part of the plant they are singles, with little or no stalk. Upper leaves and lower leaflets are elliptic, sometimes widest above the middle, up to 1½ inches long and ½ inch wide, with a blunt or pointed tip; color is dull yellowish green to purplish green. Leaves and stems are both covered with sticky hairs. Stems are unbranched, or branched near the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fertilized flowers are replaced with thin yellowish green pods up to 2 inches long that are also covered with sticky hairs. The pods stand erect.


There are 2 subspecies of Clammyweed in Minnesota. Subsp. dodecandra, the more common, has flowers with petals up to ¼ inch long and the longest stamens only slightly longer than the petals. Subsp. trachysperma has petals up to 3/8 inch long and the longest stamens may be more than twice as long as the petals. While the fruits and leaves of Clammyweed resemble those of members in the Pea family, they are not related, and otherwise nothing else found in the wild looks quite like it. In Minnesota, the only other native species in the same family as Clammyweed is James' Polanisia (P. jamesii), which is miniature by comparison, and rare in the state.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Anoka County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken near Alexandria, Douglas County.


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

Posted by: Anthony - northwest Hennepin County
on: 2014-08-10 23:03:04

I found a few specimens of var. trachysperma in northwest Hennepin County on August 6th, 2014 in a remnant gravel and sand prairie

Posted by: Jean - Anoka county
on: 2014-08-30 16:07:56

Sited at coon rapids dam

Posted by: Molly - Otter Tail County
on: 2015-09-09 10:08:29

This plant grows wild in our sand box every summer. I also saw it growing along the sandy shore of a lake in Glendalough State Park on Labor Day 2015. Now I finally know what it is! Thank you! Tough to find the ID for this one.

Posted by: Gabe - Goodhue Co.
on: 2015-10-28 08:53:02

Found on sandy shoreline of Mississippi at Prairie Island Marina. I think it is worth mentioning that this plant can also be IDed by its strong, unpleasant odor that gets on your hands when handling the plant.

Posted by: Terry S - Spring Lake Park
on: 2017-07-22 06:34:26

My first sighting of this was in 2014 on an island in Spring Lake created by dredge fill.

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