Centaurium pulchellum (Branching Centaury)
|Also known as:||Lesser Centaury|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
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:
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.
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 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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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Branching Centaury plant
- Branching Centaury plants
- Branching Centaury with White Clover
- flowers have 4 or 5 petals
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?