Myosurus minimus (Mousetail)

Plant Info
Also known as: Tiny Mousetail
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; moist to wet; rock outcrops, prairie swales
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FAC
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

[photo of flower] Flowers are single at the tip of a naked stalk that usually rises above the leaves, have 5 spreading, petal-like sepals less than ¼ inch (3 to 5 mm) long that are whitish, greenish or pinkish and have an extension at the base shorter than to nearly as long as the sepal blade. The 5 petals are linear, alternate with the sepals and are inconspicuous. In the center is a ring of 5 or more stamens surrounding a green column of 50 or more pistils that may elongate up to 2 inches.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal, 1 to 4½ inches (2.2 to 11.5 cm) long, linear to narrowly spatula-shaped, the widest barely as wide as the flowering stem, toothless, hairless, stalkless. Flowering stems are hairless and up to 6 inches (15 cm) long.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The central column forms a head of brown, rectangular achenes, flattened on the outer edge with a tiny, erect beak at the tip.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are flattened, oblong-elliptic, dark brown, less than 1 mm long.


Mousetail is a circumpolar species, native to much of North America as well as parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa. In Minnesota, Mousetail is among the specialist species that emerge around pools that form in rock outcrops after the spring rains and snow-melt, usually in the mud at the edge of a pool. Here it is less often found in prairie swales not associated with rock outcrops and in its greater native range it can be found in nearly any moist to wet habitat. It is not considered rare in Minnesota but its preferred rock outcrop habitat is definitely vulnerable, mostly from grazing and gravel mining.

Mousetail is a tiny thing and easily overlooked unless you happen upon a dense patch of it in full bloom, but is a real treat once you do spot it. The elongated seed head bears a vague similarity to some of the Plantains (Plantago ssp.), which have much broader leaves, oval seed capsules, and are generally larger overall.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Brown County. Other photos courtesy Michael Lynch.


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