Froelichia floridana (Prairie Cottonweed)
|Also known as:||Plains Snakecotton, Florida Snake-cotton, Field Snake-cotton|
|Habitat:||sun; sandy soil; open prairies, along railroads|
|Bloom season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||24 to 40 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Dense spikes 1 to 4 inches long of small, conical flowers set in a tight spiral, with 5 flowers completing one turn of the stem; about 18 flowers per 1/3 inch of spike. The fused petals open into a small cream star with an orange-brown center at the opening. Blooms become densely woolly with two lateral wings. Flower spike will grow to a length of 3 to 4 inches at maturity but earlier blooms fall from the stalk as they mature. A plant typically has a few to several spikes on a few branching stems, often with 1 to 4 spikes along the stem, the largest spike at the end of the stem.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are restricted to about the lower third of the plant, 2 to 5 inches long, ½ to 1 inch wide, lance elliptic, toothless, pointed or blunt at the tip, with or without a leaf stalk, silky hairy, often covered by fine, cobwebby hairs when young. Stems are stiff and erect, somewhat quadrangular and covered with fine flattened hairs to downy, longer hairs. Hairs are gray, white or brown.
Notes:Prairie Cottonweed is only found on some of our sandiest soils. As an annual, the plant's characteristics change with age, early plants are more compact and covered by fine hairs and the flower spikes are short and erect. Older plants lose the fine longer hairs in their leaves and the spike becomes elongated, weighing the stem down so that it nods to one side.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dakota and Goodhue counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Sherburne counties.
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