Circaea canadensis (Enchanter's Nightshade)

Plant Info
Also known as: Broadleaf Enchanter's Nightshade
Genus:Circaea
Family:Onagraceae (Evening Primrose)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:shade; moist woods, thickets
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Loose cluster of stalked flowers (raceme) more or less evenly spaced along the top of the stem, often with a few lateral racemes from the base of the cluster and/or the upper leaf axils. Flowers are 1/8 to ¼ inch across, have 2 white to pinkish petals each 1.6 to 2.9 mm long, notched to about half their length, with 2 green egg-shaped sepals about the same length that bend back away from the flower. In the center are 2 white stamens slightly longer than the petals. Beneath the flower is a hairy ovary. Flower and cluster stalks are sparsely covered in short hairs, at least some of which are gland-tipped.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite with pairs at right angles to the pair below, 2 to 6 inches (5 to 16 cm) long and to 3+ inches (2.5 to 8.5 cm) wide, minutely toothed around the edges, narrowly to broadly egg-shaped to oblong, tapering to a pointed tip, on a stalk 1 to 2 inches long. Leaves become rather smaller towards the top of the plant. Stems are single, erect, mostly hairless below the flower clusters. Colonies can form from horizontal, underground stems (rhizomes).

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a capsule 2.8 to 4.5 mm long and covered in hooked hairs that attach themselves to anything that passes by. When mature, the capsule is pear-shaped to nearly round, with several distinct ribs or grooves.

Notes:

Enchanter's Nightshade, also known as Circaea lutetiana, spreads by both seed and rhizomes, often creating small colonies in woodlands across much of Minnesota. Beware walking through the woods in late summer when this has mature fruit or you may end up with tons of it stuck to your clothes, or in your pet's fur.

There are 2 recognized subspecies: subsp. canadensis is the North American species and subsp. quadrisulcata (C. quadrisulcata) its Eurasian counterpart. Closely related is Alpine Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea alpina), a much smaller plant which has open flowers all clustered at the top of the raceme rather than along the stem, rarely gets more than 10 inches tall at maturity, has fruit lacking ribs/grooves, leaves are more coarsely toothed, and favors cool, moist woods and swampy places, often found on moss-covered rocks and logs. The two can hybridize, the hybrid (C. ×sterilis) having intermediate characteristics.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.

Comments

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

Posted by: Karen - Mille Lacs, western side
on: 2011-07-20 15:53:32

Bountiful in the area with delicate pink flowers.

Posted by: Carrie Anne - Crow Wing County
on: 2011-07-24 21:17:51

I was just at my parents little spot up north in Ross Lake Township of Crow Wing County (by Aitkin), and I just successfully ID'ed these growing quite well among a host of ferns, grasses, maples, pines, and birch trees. They are just off of Stark Lake. They reminded me of bishop's cap at first. So lovely in the forest, it's amazing how many people miss noticing these small beauties.

Posted by: Beverly - Edina
on: 2015-07-15 14:35:24

In my shady side garden, among the monardas and dicentras. Like Carrie Anne, my first thought was of Mitella.

Posted by: Tim - Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County
on: 2016-06-29 20:38:28

Abundant in shady areas of suburban yard which were allowed to naturalize after the land had been farmed and then managed as a lawn for many years.

Posted by: Lynn - Webster township, Rice County
on: 2016-07-04 18:40:09

Next to the trunks of our green ash trees in our yard. Just noticed them blooming today.

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2016-07-05 19:48:19

Lots of the Alpine and C. lutetiana plants blooming in and around the large planted White pines in Sand Dunes SF on July 3, 2016.

Posted by: Tom - southern Winona County
on: 2017-07-05 09:16:49

Coming up under the edges of a spruce tree in my wildflower garden. Mostly shade, some afternoon sun. New Jersey Tea grows well right next to it.

Posted by: Cathy C - Otter Tail cty
on: 2017-07-26 09:49:41

I have found this plant on my property here near Ottertail, and the little seeds, i.e.-burs, love to hitchhike on my dog's fur. My dog sitter in Little Canada, MN, has a ton of these in his yard and the burs turn my dog green in late summer.

Posted by: Steve Fester - Roseville
on: 2019-06-29 09:08:42

A small colony appeared this year in the same location where I cleared out some black nightshade last year, under a giant white pine, mostly shade.

Posted by: Susan Cassidy - Ham Lake
on: 2020-07-05 12:59:18

This plant is abundant in my area. It is taking over the shades portion of my yard.

Posted by: Heather Cullen - TAYLORS FALLS
on: 2020-07-22 16:51:54

First time in 10 years I have seen them in the woods on my property.they are pretty.

Posted by: Vicki Barnes - Eagan
on: 2022-09-01 15:48:28

If it's the same plant, my back wooded area is full of it. The flowers are easy to overlook, but the burrs are a nightmare.

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