Commelina erecta (Slender Dayflower)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Commelinaceae (Spiderwort)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry, sandy or rocky soil; prairie, open woods, barrens, dunes, bluffs, outcrops, glades
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:6 to 36 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: UPL
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

[photo of flower] Stalked flowers, single or in small clusters, at the tip of branching stems and arising from leaf axils near the top of the plant. Individual flowers are ¾ to 1¼ inch across and have 3 petals, the upper 2 petals are round and bright blue, the lower petal much smaller, white and notched into 3 rounded lobes. In the center are 3 small, yellow-tipped, sterile stamens and a 4th stamen with a larger, butterfly-shaped yellow tip. Below are a style and 2 fertile stamens; all 3 are long, curving and blue.

[photo of spathe] Behind the flower is a folded, leafy bract (spathe) that is up to 1½ inches long, half heart-shaped in outline, and typically covered in short, stiff hairs. The spathe is fused along the bottom third (or more), with only a slit open at the top where the flower emerges. Each flower lasts for a single day, hence the common name.

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

[photo of leaf] Leaves are 2 to 6 inches long, up to 1¼ inch wide, lance-linear with a long taper to the pointed tip, a rounded base, stalkless or nearly so, toothless, hairless or with minute stiff hairs, and widely spaced on the stem. Edges are often reddish.

[photo of sheath and stem] The leaf base extends to form a sheath ½ to 1 inch long, surrounding the stem, with a few long hairs around the tip edge, short hairs along the front edges and a scattered stiff hairs on the surface. The tip of the sheath often has a pair of small, rounded lobes (auricles) that flare out. Stems are erect to ascending, often branched, usually rough, sometimes smooth.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a 2 or 3-sectioned capsule, each section containing 2 brown seeds.


The only known location for Slender Dayflower in Minnesota is in a sand prairie in Wabasha County. According to the DNR, extensive targeted searches have been performed by the MN County Biological Survey without locating any additional populations. Due to the species' rarity as well as the rarity of potential habitat, it was listed as State Endangered in 2013. A similar species is the non-native Asiatic Dayflower (Commelina communis), which is an annual, has a hairless spathe open at the top all the way to the base, stems that are often prostrate and root at the nodes, lacks auricles on the sheaths, and the yellow stamens typically have a maroon spot in the center of the tip.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Kellog-Weaver Dunes SNA, Wabasha County.


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

Posted by: Amy k - Northfield, rice cty.
on: 2017-10-17 13:04:03

I have a natural colony if these in my yard. Tips to preserve it?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-10-17 15:02:24

Amy, it is extremely unlikely you have the rare native dayflower, especially if it's in a lawn or garden setting. Much more likely is the weedy Asiatic dayflower, which is potentially invasive. Read the Notes that describes the differences between the two.

Posted by: Roy A Krueger - Greenfield
on: 2021-07-26 14:33:39

A friend has what think is one in her garden. I could send a photo if there was a way to attach it.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-07-28 19:00:41

Roy, I am willing to bet money that your friend has Asiatic dayflower.

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