Antennaria parvifolia (Small-leaved Pussytoes)
|Also known as:||Nuttall's Pussytoes|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry fields, prairies, savannas, open woods|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||1 to 6 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Two to 7 flower heads in a flat to rounded cluster at the top of the stem, with separate male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flower heads are 3/8 to ½ inch long and look like little shaving brushes, with numerous thread-like styles at the top and the head surrounded by a series of bracts (called phyllaries), each phyllary green to purplish and firm (somewhat leaf-like) at the base and white, pink, red or brown, thin and more petal-like at the tip. Individual flowers are 5 to 8 mm (to ~1/3 inch) long and the set of phyllaries (called the involucre) is 8 to 10+ mm (to 3/8+ inch) long at maturity. The male flowers are less furry looking, in rounded heads with scaly white flowers that have a brown column of stamens protruding from the center. The involucre on male flower heads is 5.5 to 7.5 mm long with individual flowers 3.5 to 4.5 mm long.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are basal and alternate. Basal leaves are 1/3 to 1 1/3 inches long and up to ½ inch wide, toothless, narrowly spatula-shaped, rounded to pointed at the tip (may be more angular than rounded), broadest near the tip and gradually tapering at the base. Leaves have a single prominent vein, seen on both the front and back of the leaf. Both the upper and lower surface are silvery green from dense matted hairs and do not become hairless with age. Basal leaves tend to persist to the next season before shriveling up and disintegrating.
Stem leaves are mostly linear, up to ¾ inch long and less than 1/8 inch wide, toothless, stalkless, and woolly hairy. Stem leaf tips are rounded to pointed and lack a short, papery appendage known as a “flag”. Stems are erect, green to reddish, covered in long, white, matted hairs. Horizontal, above ground stems (stolons) emerge from basal leaf clumps, spreading in all directions, rooting at the nodes and forming colonies. In populations of mixed male and female plants, they are typically in equal numbers, but males are more often absent altogether.
Fruit is a brown seed 1 to 1.8 mm long with a tuft of white hair (pappus) attached to carry it off in the wind. Hairs are 6.5 to 9 mm long. Fruit is produced even when male plants are absent.
There are 6 species of Pussytoes in Minnesota and they are a tough group, but generally put into two categories: those with a single prominent vein on basal leaves (most easily seen on the back of a mature leaf), and those with 3 (or more) prominent veins. Note that early leaves even on some 1-veined species may have faint lateral veins which can make identification questionable, in which case examining any old basal leaves persisting from the previous season might help make a more confident determination. For the 1-veined species, noting whether males are present can be helpful to an ID, as is examination of the mid and upper stem leaves for a “flag” at the tip (see photo below for an example). Magnification may be required.
In Minnesota, the 1-veined species consist of Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta), Howell's Pussytoes (A. howellii), Small-leaved Pussytoes (A. parvifolia) and Tiny-leaved Pussytoes (A. microphylla). Rosy Pussytoes (A. rosea) has also been reported as present in Minnesota but there are no official records of it. A. parvifolia is most consistently distinguished by the combination of: short flowering stalks (commonly less than 4 inches tall, rarely 6 or more), basal leaves similarly silvery-green and woolly hairy on both surfaces and not becoming hairless, stem leaves lacking flags, phyllaries white, pink, red or brown at the tip, and usually all female populations.
Most similar is A. microphylla, which has longer flowering stems (to 12 inches), smaller basal leaves (not over 2/3 inch [16 mm] long), white to pale yellow phyllary tips, glandular hairs on the upper stem (magnification required), male plants are often present, and it has a preference for moister soil. A. neglecta and A. howellii both have longer flowering stems, larger basal leaves (to 2 inches) that are variably hairy on the upper surface and usually become hairless with age, may have flags on mid to upper stem leaves, and white or creamy yellow phyllary tips. Male plants are also likely present in A. neglecta populations. A. rosea is also similar to A. parvifolia but has taller stems, up to 20 heads in a flower cluster, phyllaries are often rosy pink, and basal leaves are sometimes hairless on the upper surface.
A. parvifolia is rare in Minnesota. According to the DNR, its scattered populations are primarily in prairie and savanna remnants, of which less than 1% remains in the state. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Small-leaved Pussytoes plant
- Small-leaved Pussytoes plants
- Small-leaved Pussytoes plants
- Small-leaved Pussytoes habitat
- basal leaf clumps
- example of flags on Antennaria neglecta leaf tips
Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Chisago, Dakota and Polk counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?