Polanisia jamesii (James' Polanisia)
|Also known as:||James' Cristatella|
|Family:||Cleomaceae (Spider Flower)|
|Habitat:||sun; dry sand or gravel prairie, eroding slopes along Mississippi River blufflands|
|Bloom season:||July - August|
|Plant height:||4 to 10 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Single flowers in the leaf axils in the upper plant. Flowers are 1/8 to ¼ inch across, very irregular, the petals white to yellowish with ragged or irregularly notched edges. A pair of broad petals stand erect, with a lower, smaller pair wrapped around the central tubular nectary. 6 to 9 yellow stamens and a single yellow-green style project out below the lower petals and nectary. The four sepals are lance shaped with sticky glandular hairs on the outer surface, and are longer than the lower petals but shorter than the upper petals. The slender flower stalks are ¼ to ½ inch long and also covered in glandular hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, compound in 3s, on a slender ¼ to ½ inch stalk. The center leaflet is up to 1 inch long and 1/8 inch wide; the side leaflets are ½ to 2/3 its length. Leaves and stems covered in short, sticky glandular hairs that exude a sharp skunky odor when touched. Stems are erect and often much branched in the upper plant,
Minnesota's populations of James' Polanisia, formerly Cristatella jamesii, are disjunct from its primary range in the south central Great Plains, west of the Mississippi River where it grows on dry, sand prairies. In the Upper Midwest it is rare, restricted to sandy or gravelly prairies and slopes near the Mississippi River. According to the DNR it was listed as endangered in Minnesota in 1984 and is largely at risk from encroachment of woody and invasive species, which shade out this sun-loving plant. The other Polanisia species in MInnesota is Red-whisker Clammyweed (P. dodecandra). It can occur in the same sandy locations where James' Polanisia is found but is far more widespread across the state and is easily distinguished by its larger size, large elliptical leaflets, and typically deep reddish sepals and stamens.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Pine Bend SNA, Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Washington counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?