Centaurium pulchellum (Branching Centaury)

Plant Info
Also known as: Lesser Centaury
Family:Gentianaceae (Gentian)
Life cycle:annual
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, railroads, waste areas, fields, lawns, wetland edges
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FAC
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: 4-petals Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching cluster of stalked flowers at the top of the stem and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are about ¼ inch across with 5 (occasionally 4), hot pink to rose red, elliptic petals fused at the base into a slender tube about ½ inch long that is whitish on the outer surface. Extending from the tube are 4 or 5 yellow-tipped stamens and a single style.

[photo of floral tube, sepals and stalk] Surrounding the base of the tube are 4 or 5 lance-linear sepals, usually shorter than the floral tube and fused near the base. The flower stalk is distinct but less than ¼ inch (2 to 5 mm) long. Stalks and sepals are hairless.

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

[photo of lower leaves] Leaves are opposite, up to about ¾ inch long, half or less as wide, toothless, hairless, egg-shaped to lance-oblong, blunt or rounded at the tip, and stalkless. At the base of the stem are often 2 pair of leaves that may appear whorled, but are merely 2 crowded pair of leaves, which may wither away as the plant matures.

[photo of stem and upper stem leaves] Stem leaves are evenly spaced, erect to ascending, with leaf pairs at right angles to the pair above and below; upper leaves may be proportionately narrower and more pointed at the tip than lower leaves. Stems are erect, 4-sided, hairless, usually branched in the upper stem, and may branch near the base creating a bushy appearance.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an oblong-elliptic capsule about 3/8 inch long containing numerous round, blackish seeds.


Branching Centaury is an occasional weed, often found in saline soils such as along salted roadsides. It is likely under-reported in the state, possibly overlooked due to its tiny size. The hot pink flowers are said to open on sunny days from late morning until early evening. Branching Centaury is a distinctive species in Minnesota; its short stature (rarely much more than 4 inches tall) and opposite leaves should distinguish it from other small, pink flowers with 5 petals. A related species, Forking Centaury (Centaurium erythraea), not known to be in Minnesota at this time, has a distinct rosette of numerous basal leaves and its flowers are stalkless or nearly so.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in St. Louis County.


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

Posted by: Mary2 - Minnetonka
on: 2021-07-25 12:29:04

I just discovered this today in Big Willow park in a sunny area along Minnehaha Creek, near the railroad tracks. Had never seen this vivid pink flower before - was disappointed to read it isn't native.

Posted by: Harlan M. Baxter - White Bear Tp., Ramsey Co.
on: 2022-08-02 11:03:28

I discovered this growing along Otter Lake Road just south of Tamarack Nature Center. Lots of tiny, five-petaled flowers.

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