Phacelia franklinii (Franklin's Phacelia)

Plant Info
Also known as: Franklin's Scorpionweed
Family:Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
  • State Threatened
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed rocky or sandy soil; rock outcrops, cliffs, forest clearings, shores, banks
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:4 tp 30 inches
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: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Short-stalked flowers in one to several elongating, arching clusters at the top of the stem and arising from the upper leaf axils; only one or a few flowers at the tip are typically open at the same time. Flowers are about 3/8 inch (1 cm) across, bell-shaped with 5 petals fused at the base. Color ranges from purple to blue-violet to nearly white. In the center are a divided style and 5 orange-tipped stamens that have a few long, white hairs along the filament (stalk). Cupping the flower is a calyx with 5 narrow lobes that are shorter than the petals. The calyx, flower stalks and stems are all covered in spreading hairs.

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

[photo of mid-stem leaf] Leaves are basal and alternate, up to 4 inches long, deeply divided into 7 to 15 narrow lobes, some lobes sometimes further lobed or with a few large teeth. Surfaces are sparsely hairy, sometimes glandular. The first year is a large basal rosette of longer stalked leaves with the flowering stem usually bolting the second year.

[photo of stem hairs] Stems are erect, single from the base, usually unbranched except for the flower clusters, sparsely to moderately covered in a mix of long and short hairs, and sometimes glandular especially on the upper stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a hairy, oval to teardrop-shaped, 2-sectioned capsule, more or less as long as the calyx lobes with the remains of the style persisting at the tip like a long tail.

[photo of seed] Seeds are numerous, about 1.5 mm long, brown with a pitted, honeycomb texture all across the surface.


Franklin's Phacelia is quite rare in Minnesota, found primarily in disturbed, rocky or sandy soils in the arrowhead region of the state, often in shallow soils over bedrock. The first record goes back to 1891 just west of Grand Marais, with a few more in the 1930s on cliffs along the north shore of Lake Superior and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, then again in 1951 in St. Louis County near Palo. According to the DNR, none of these older populations have been relocated, and biological surveys since then have only discovered 7 additional populations, all but one of which are very small with 10 or fewer plants. Originally listed as a Special Concern species in 1996, it was elevated to Threatened in 2013.

It should not be easily confused with any other species, distinguished by the hairy, divided leaves and arching flower clusters with blue to purple, bell-shaped flowers, only a few of which may be open at a time. While the plants we photographed in Lake County were somewhat small and spindly, it can be fairly robust, to 2 feet tall or more with a dense bundle of flower clusters at the tip. The shape of the clusters is known as scirpioid, named after the coiling tail of a scorpion.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.


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

Posted by: Julie Leslie - Willmar
on: 2023-04-26 16:08:54

Hello. I purchased Phacelia (blue tansy) seeds to sow at my two lake propeties. I don't think they are invasive, but want to check to be sure. I plan to use on a spetic mound, and hillside down to the water. I did read they are good pollinators! Thank you! Julie Leslie

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-04-26 16:23:04

Julie, we aren't familiar with species from other regions so can't say how it will perform here, but if what you purchased is Phacelia tanacetifolia, it is native to the southwest US and Mexico and may not do well here. In any case, you might have better luck with a species native to the upper midwest.

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