Plagiobothrys scouleri (Sleeping Popcornflower)
|Also known as:||Scouler's Popcornflower, Meadow Popcornflower, Matted Popcornflower|
|Habitat:||sun; seasonally moist to wet; vernal pools, drying meadows, mud flats|
|Bloom season:||May - July|
|Plant height:||2 to 8 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Elongating cluster of stalked flowers at the tips of branching stems and arising from leaf axils, typically with a few flowers blooming at the tip and fruit forming below. Flowers are tiny, about 1/16 inch across, short-tubular, white with 5 round, spreading lobes and a yellowish throat. The calyx surrounding the base of the flower has 5 linear-oblong lobes sparsely covered in appressed hairs. Flower stalks are short, relatively stout and sparsely covered in appressed hairs.
Leaves and stems:
The lowest 1 to 4 pairs of leaves are opposite, becoming alternate above. Leaves are 3/8 to 2 inches long, about 1/8 inch wide, toothless, mostly linear, the lowest leaves are largest becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. The upper surface is hairless, the lower sparsely covered in short, appressed hairs. Stems are erect to prostrate, branched and variously covered in appressed hairs, more densely so in the upper plant.
Sleeping Popcornflower is a rare find in Minnesota and is distinguished by the tiny white flowers, only 1 to 2 mm in diameter, linear-oblong calyx lobes, and sparse appressed hairs all over. While rather common in the western half of North America and found in moist soils that tend to dry out in summer, including meadows, mud flats, and even conifer forest openings, in Minnesota it is restricted to vernal pools in rock outcrops in only 3 of our western counties. According to the DNR, only 11 populations have been recorded and most are at risk from grazing, herbicide use, and especially bedrock mining. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 2013. This species is taxonomically confusing, listed by various references as Plagiobothrys scouleri var. penicillatus, Plagiobothrys scouleri var. hispidulus, and Plagiobothrys hispidulus, with the latter likely to be the winner in the end but not yet accepted in Minnesota. USDA lists 3 varieties of P. scouleri, ITIS treats them all as synonyms of P. hispidulus (along with several other Plagiobothrys species), and Jepson Flora at UC Berkeley treats them all as separate species. We will see how this all turns out.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Blue Mounds State Park and Touch-the-sky Prairie, Rock County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?