Phemeranthus rugospermus (Rough-seeded Fameflower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sand Fameflower, Prairie Fameflower
Genus:Phemeranthus
Family:Portulacaceae (Purslane)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Threatened
Habitat:part shade, sun; rocky ledges, sand prairies, barrens
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:6 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: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Flowers are displayed in an open array on slender stalks that diverge near the end of a long smooth stem. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch across, star-shaped with 5 pink petals and up to 25 erect pink stamens with bright yellow tips. The ovary is a small green globe at center, the style white and slender split into 3 parts at the tip. Two papery thin oval sepals embrace the base of the flower. Flowers are only open for a few hours in late afternoon in full sunshine, rapidly closing up before the sun goes down.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are round in cross-section, linear and succulent with a smooth, transluscent sheen, 1 to 3 inches long attached to a compressed stem on a taproot. The flowering stem is naked and very slender, and sometimes branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a green globe-shaped capsule around 1/6 inch in diameter, containing seeds with a very wrinkly texture, hence the common name Rough-seeded Fameflower.

Notes:

Rough-seeded Fameflower was first discovered in 1864 near Taylors Falls by a surgeon and Mississippi headwaters explorer but not identified to its own specific epithet until 1899 - Talinum rugospermum. Recent taxonomic studies have changed its classification to Phemeranthus rugospermus. According to the DNR, it is relatively rare throughout it range due to its narrow habitat preferences. While classified as State Endangered in 1984 and downgraded to Threatened in 2013, its seed is available from native seed peddlers and I have found it to germinate easily and persist quite well in a sunny, sandy garden spot, though it will not tolerate much competition so must be carefully cultivated.

Fameflowers are well adapted to their hot, dry sunny habitats by their small cylindrical and succulent leaves, short fleshy stem and even a flower period set to late afternoons and early evening. The flowers open quickly for just one day and then quickly shed sepals and petals before the next sun-up. Minnesota's two species, Rough-seeded and Small-flowered Fameflower (Phemeranthus parviflorus) are very nearly identical in general appearance though easy to discriminate on several key characteristics. Perhaps the easiest might be that historical collections do not overlap in a single county (see maps). While that may suffice as a quick general guide it could easily provide the wrong answer - i.e. just because no one has found it somewhere before doesn't mean its not there now. The best way is to count the stamens. Rough-seeded Fameflower has anywhere between 12 and 25, typically +20, small-flowered only has 5 to 10 stamens, typically 6 to 8. It should be noted here that all major references (Gleason & Cronquist, Britton & Brown and FNA) are consistent with P. parviflorus having typically 5 stamens, 6 at most. But all of our observations and in photographs of specimens taken from Renville, Rock and Stearns counties, all of them have had 6 or more with 7 or 8 common.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Whitewater Management Area, Winona County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in the Whitewater Management Area and a private garden in Anoka County.

Comments

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

Posted by: Jen - Blue Mounds State Park /Rock County
on: 2011-07-25 07:38:30

I saw this little beauty along the Mound Creek Trail 3rd week in July. Next to it were prickly pear and a great horned owl! It appeared to be done blooming as I photographed it with the seed pods. I heard from another hiker there may be several places within the park hosting this flower.

Posted by: Victoria - Scott County
on: 2011-08-29 18:22:26

This fameflower is in the Louisville Swamp section of the Minnesota River Valley Wildlife Refuge. (I checked the herbarium records against my memory).

Posted by: Larry - Golden Valley
on: 2013-09-02 06:49:06

I saw 1 or 2 acres doted with these plants at Weaver Dunes. They were in a sunny area of sand blooming later in the afternoon.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2015-07-10 13:20:57

I saw several plants of this species in bloom at Rushford Sand Barrens SNA earlier this week (July 7).

Posted by: Tyler - Blue Mounds State Park
on: 2016-08-08 15:43:36

I managed to take a coupole pictures of this beautiful flower. It was growing on the Quartz found in the state park...seemed to have a relationship with the lichen and moss that were on the stones. Accompanied in the vicinity by Prickly Pear cactus and brittle cactus.

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