Lygodesmia juncea (Skeletonweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Rush Skeleton-plant
Genus:Lygodesmia
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:sun; dry prairies, fields. plains, roadsides, railroads
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:6 to 18 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

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] Single flowers at the tips of branching stems. Flowers are pink to lavender (rarely white), ½ to ¾ inch across with (usually) 5 petals that have several small teeth at the tip. At the base of a petal is a column with short stamens and a long protruding style with a divided, arching tip.

[photo of bracts] The bracts are green, hairless, and in 2 layers, the outer short and unequal in length, the inner long and narrow, forming a column up to ¾ inch long.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Lower leaves are stiff, linear, ½ to 2 inches long, less than 1/8 inch wide, toothless, hairless, pointed at the tip, and stalkless, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem and reduced to scales in the upper plant. Stems are green, stiff, hairless and much branched, the branches mostly erect to ascending.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of white to light brown hairs to carry it off in the wind.

Notes:

While Skeletonweed is not uncommon, it is easily overlooked when flowers are not opened, the spindly, seemingly leafless stems inconspicuous in surrounding vegetation, though it can take on a somewhat bushy appearance from its numerous branches. It is often seen with round galls along the stems, made by a small wasp. Similar is the rare Annual Skeletonweed (Shinnersoseris rostrata), which has much longer, broader leaves that wither away, and flowers with 6 or more petals that lack the teeth at the tip and do not spread fully open.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Ordway Prairie, Pope County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Garrison, North Dakota.

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