Antennaria microphylla (Tiny-leaved Pussytoes)
|Also known as:||Little-leaf Pussytoes, Rosy Pussytoes|
|Habitat:||sun; dry to moist soil; prairies, meadows, edges of wet depressions, floodplains of streams|
|Bloom season:||April - June|
|Plant height:||4 to 12 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Four to 13 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 ¼ to 1/3 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 thin, white to pale yellow and more petal-like at the tip. Individual flowers are 3 to 4.3 mm (to 1/6 inch) long and the set of phyllaries (called the involucre) is 5.5 to 7 mm (to .28 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 to 6.5 mm long with individual flowers 2.5 to 3 mm long.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are basal and alternate. Basal leaves are ¼ to 2/3 inch (6 to 16 mm) long and up to ¼ 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 may become hairless with age but usually not. Basal leaves tend to persist to the next season before shriveling up and disintegrating.
Stem leaves are lance-linear, up to 1 inch long and less than ¼ inch wide, toothless, stalkless, and woolly hairy. Stem leaf tips are pointed and lack a short, papery appendage known as a “flag”. Stems are erect, green to reddish, covered in long, white, matted hairs, with purple or white glandular hairs on the upper stem. Horizontal, above ground stems (stolons) emerge from basal leaf clumps, spreading in all directions, rooting at the nodes and forming colonies. Male populations are usually separate from females though nearby, but are sometimes absent.
Fruit is a brown seed .7 to 1.2 mm long with a tuft of white hair (pappus) attached to carry it off in the wind. Hairs are 3 to 5 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. microphylla has the smallest basal leaves of all the Pussytoes species in Minnesota, not longer than 2/3 inch (16 mm) and most ½ inch or less. It also has glandular hairs on the upper stem, though magnification is required to see them, and can be found in moister soils than other Pussytoes. We encountered it at the edge of an alkaline seep.
Most similar is A. parvifolia, which has shorter flowering stems (usually 4 inches or less), larger basal leaves (over 1 inch long), white, pink, red or brown phyllary tips, lacks glandular hairs on the upper stem, and male plants are rarely present. A. neglecta and A. howellii both have much larger basal leaves (to 2 inches) that are less hairy, and may have flags on mid to upper stem leaves. Male plants are also likely present in A. neglecta populations but usually absent for A. howellii. A. rosea is also similar to A. microphylla but has up to 20 heads in a flower cluster, phyllaries are often rosy pink, and basal leaves are sometimes hairless on the upper surface.
A. microphylla is not considered rare but is very uncommon in Minnesota, even less common than A. parvifolia, which is listed as Special Concern.
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- Tiny-leaved Pussytoes plant
- Tiny-leaved Pussytoes plants
- Tiny-leaved Pussytoes habitat
- a sense of scale (the fingernail is ½ inch long)
- example of flags as seen on Antennaria neglecta leaves
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Kittson and Lake of the Woods counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?