Agalinis paupercula (Small-flower False Foxglove)

Plant Info
Also known as: Small-flowered Gerardia, Small-flowered Agalinis, Smooth False Foxglove
Family:Orobanchaceae (Broomrape)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; moist sandy or peaty soil; shores, wet meadows, fens
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
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 Flower shape: tubular

[photo of flower] Single short-stalked flowers arising from the leaf axils at the top of the plant and along branching stems. Flowers are funnel-shaped, ½ to about ¾ inch long, up to ¾ inch across, pink with 5 spreading lobes that are finely hairy around the edges, the upper 2 lobes slightly smaller than the lower 3. The inside of the tube is white with darker reddish-purple spots and usually a pair of pale yellow stripes. The 4 hairy, white-tipped stamens and a single white style are about as long as or shorter than the floral tube.

[photo of calyx and flower stalk] The calyx cupping the flower is hairless and has 5 sharply pointed triangular to awl-shaped lobes that are shorter than to about as long as the calyx tube. Flower stalks are hairless and shorter than the calyx.

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

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are opposite, up to about 1½ inches long, linear to narrowly lance-linear, toothless, stalkless, with a prominent central vein, may be rough textured on the upper surface and are sometimes purple tinged. Smaller leaves may develop in the axils. Stems are angled and smooth or slightly rough, usually branched, erect to ascending.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a shiny globular capsule about ¼ inch across, containing many tiny seeds.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are about 1 mm long, dark brown, angular, irregularly shaped with a raised network pattern across the surface.


Small-flower False Foxglove is a common species found in moist sandy or peaty soil, frequently on lake shores but also in sedge meadows and calcareous fens. Formerly Agalinis purpurea var. parviflora, it is easily confused with the uncommon Purple False Foxglove (Agalinis purperea, formerly A. purpurea var. purpurea) with which it may grow. A. paupercula is generally a smaller plant with flowers about half the size (not more than ¾ inch long, usually ½ to 2/3 inch), the stamens and style can be shorter than the floral tube, and its calyx lobes can be as long as the calyx tube, where A. purpurea flowers are at least ¾ inch long, stamens and styles typically are at least as long as the tube, and calyx lobes are not more than half as long as the tube. When flowers are not present it is very difficult to distinguish the two. A. paupercula is also similar to Slender-leaved False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia), which is most easily distinguished by its long flower stalk. Agalinis spp. are partially parasitic, though it is unknown (to me) what species are host plants. This trait has moved the Agalinis genus from the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family to the Orobanchaceae (Broomrape) family.

There are two vars of A. paupercula, both of which have been reported in Minnesota, though they are not well documented: var. borealis is apparently the more common of the two, has sparse white to brownish hairs on its anthers, flowers 3/8 to 2/3 inch (10 to 17 mm) long; var. paupercula has dense white hairs on anthers, slightly larger flowers (15 to 20 mm).

Of note is that prior to A. purpurea and A. paupercula being split into separate species, we had dozens of photos all simply identified as A. purpurea without regard to var. Chances are those taken around the Anoka Sandplain could be either and those taken in other parts of the state are most likely A. paupercula but without clear diagnostic images of the flowers there is no reliable way to distinguish many of them at this point.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Hubbard counties.


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

Posted by: Holli B - Grant township near Stillwater
on: 2023-08-13 23:48:09

Found one plant on my lakeshore last summer and saved seeds. Cast them on the shoreline this early spring and now have many. The plant looks delicate and the flowers are lovely.

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