Packera cana (Woolly Groundsel)

Plant Info
Also known as: Gray Ragwort, Silvery Ragwort
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Endangered
Habitat:sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, plains, rocky slopes, outcrops
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
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: 7+petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] An erect cluster of 8 to 15 flowers that is more or less flat across the top in profile, the stalks long and slender, often all attached at the very tip of the stem, though a few stalks may be branched. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across, daisy-like with a golden yellow center disk and 8, 10 or 13 yellow rays (petals).

[photo of phyllaries] Cupping the flower head are 13 or 21 narrow, floral bracts (phyllaries), usually green or sometimes purplish, with sparse to dense matted hairs especially around the tip end. Flower stalks are densely covered in matted hairs; a few scale-like bracts are scattered along the stalk.

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

[photo of basal leaf] Leaves are mostly erect, 1 to 2 inches long, up to about ½ inch wide, toothless. Both upper and lower surfaces are densely covered in matted white hairs, especially the underside, the upper surface sometimes becoming smooth with age. Basal leaves are in a dense clump. Basal and the lowest stem leaves are generally lance-elliptic with a blunt to rounded tip, tapering at the base to a long, slender stalk.

[photo of stem and upper stem leaf] Mid to upper stem leaves are few, widely spaced, lance-oblong in outline, deeply lobed to coarsely toothed, and stalkless or nearly so. Stems are stout, unbranched, single or multiple from the base, weakly ridged, and densely covered in matted white hairs. The woolly hairs give the whole plant a silvery cast.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of hair (pappus) to carry it off in the wind.


A rare species in Minnesota, Woolly Groundsel was first collected near Fertile in Polk County in 1942 and not seen again until the 1990s, when 4 sites in Marshall and Polk counties were discovered during biological surveys of our northwest counties. According to the DNR, these 4 locations were thought to be the only known populations in the state and it was subsequently listed as an Endangered species in 1996. A new site was found in 2015 just a few miles from the original collection site near Fertile. Perhaps more will be found in the near future, but the rocky prairie habitat favored by this species is vulnerable to gravel mining and keeps it at risk. While the flowers of Woolly Groundsel resemble those of other Packera species, it is easily distinguished by the dense covering of woolly hairs on leaves and stems, which give the plant a silvery cast.

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More photos

Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in Polk County and in North Dakota. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Montana.


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

Posted by: HOA PHAM - Britton Peak
on: 2020-06-12 16:17:19

I saw this flower on Britton Peak of the North Shore of MN

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-12 17:36:10

Hoa, Packera cana is a dry plains species and is only known from a few locations in northwest MN. It would be quite the find on the North Shore, but I suspect you saw a different species. If you have any photos and would like confirmation, I suggest posting them on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page.

Posted by: Jacob - Fertile
on: 2021-08-11 00:31:34

There are some plants I found two years ago on one of the WMAs just east of Fertile. Not many though.

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