Besseya bullii (Kittentails)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bull's Coraldrops
Family:Plantaginaceae (Plantain)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Threatened
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy soil; prairies, open woods, bluffs, barrens, hillsides
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:8 to 16 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: irregular Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Pale yellow flowers are in a single dense spike cluster 2 to 6 inches long. Individual flowers are less than ¼ inch long, with 4 or 5 irregular lobes and 2 long stamens that protrude from the center. As the plant matures, the stem elongates with flowers blooming just near the top.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] There are both stem leaves and basal leaves. The stem leaves are up to 1 inch long and ½ inch wide, toothless, oval to somewhat triangular with no leaf stem, sometimes clasping the stem. The basal leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, to 3 inches wide, oval to egg-shaped, with scalloped edges and leaf stems about 1 inch long. All leaves are hairy, as are stems.


Kittentails is a rare plant and on the Threatened species list in the handful of Upper Midwest/Great Lakes states where it grows. The Twin Cities area is more or less its center of population in Minnesota, though it is also located in a few counties farther north and west. I've often seen it growing on a bluff or hillside, in dappled sunlight or on a north facing slope. The leaves persist long after the stem withers away so it is still possible to find when not in bloom. Like a number of other species formerly in the Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family, Besseya has been reassigned to Plantaginaceae (Plantain).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Vermillion Falls, Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at McKnight Prairie, Goodhue County.


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

Posted by: Bonnie - McKnight Prairie
on: 2016-05-07 16:53:04

I saw Kittentails at McKnight about 30 years ago but have not seen them since. Have you seen them there recently and if so, must be in April when Prairie Smoke blooms per your photo. Any better clue about WHEN you saw them, I would love to see them again. Thank you.

Posted by: Tom - MN Valley NWR - Louisville Swamp
on: 2016-05-16 08:02:43

Half-dozen plants blooming May 15

Posted by: Tom - MN Valley NWR - Rapids Lake
on: 2016-05-16 11:41:20

May 16, a dozen or more blooming in a level open area of non-native grasses in deteriorated oak savanna.

Posted by: Steve Poole - Lost Valley Prairie SNA, Washington County
on: 2020-07-04 19:15:01

There are three separate populations on the site. One is growing, one is losing, one I only find periodically. There are 3 to 5 plants at each spot.

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