Phemeranthus parviflorus (Small-flowered Fameflower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sunbright, Prairie Flameflower
Family:Portulacaceae (Purslane)
Life cycle:biennial
Habitat:sun; thin soil over bedrock
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:3 to 6 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: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Flowers are displayed in an open array on slender stalks that diverge near the end of a long smooth stem. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch across, star-shaped with 5 pink petals and 5 to 10 erect pink stamens with bright yellow tips. The single center ovary is bright green and egg shaped, with a frosty white stigma on the tip of the style. Two papery thin oval sepals embrace the base of the flower. The flower cluster starts with a single bloom on a long slender stalk but develops multiple branches through the season with new flowers opening briefly just once late in the day before quickly shedding both petals and sepals.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves very slender and cylindrical, 1 to 2 inches long, in dense basal clusters on a short, thick, semi-woody stem that is typically simple or few branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an erect oval capsule about 1/8 inch long, green turning light tan at maturity. When ripe, it quickly splits opens shedding the small black seeds inside.


Minnesota's two Fameflower species, Small-flowered and Rough-seeded Fameflower (Phemeranthus rugospermus), are very nearly identical in general appearance though easy to discriminate on several key characteristics. Perhaps the easiest might be that historical collections do not overlap in a single county (see maps). While that may suffice as a quick general guide it could easily provide the wrong answer - i.e. just because no one has found it somewhere before doesn't mean it's not there now. The best way is to count the stamens. P. rugospermus has anywhere between 12 and 25, typically +20, P. parviflorus only has 5 to 10, typically 6 to 8. It should be noted here that all major references (Gleason & Cronquist, Britton & Brown, and Flora of North America) are consistent with P. parviflorus having typically 5 stamens, 6 at most. But all of our observations and in photographs of specimens taken from Renville, Rock and Stearns counties, all of them have had 6 or more with 7 or 8 common. It can also be observed that the white stigma in P. parviflous is more globular (capitate), only occasionally visibly split into 3 parts, where on P. rugospermus it is clearly split into three linear parts. Fameflowers are well adapted to their hot, dry sunny habitats by their small cylindrical and succulent leaves, short fleshy stems and a flower period set to late afternoons and early evening. The flowers open quickly for just one day and then quickly shed sepals and petals before the next sun-up.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Renville, Rock and Stearns counties, and in a private garden in Ramsey County.


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

Posted by: Jerold - Jeffers Petroglyphs
on: 2014-06-26 14:10:34

We caught these yesterday 6/25/14 at 4:30 PM. Amazing plants, they were not yet in bloom at 4 PM, but when we were leaving the site, we rechecked the plants and they were open by the hundreds. WE also saw them at the nearby Rock Ridge SNA

Posted by: Kristin - Sioux Falls, SD actually
on: 2015-07-10 12:13:55

Wonderful photo! I used to see this tiny Talinum (as it was known then) with fragile prickly-pear and Hairy False Goldenaster (then called Chrysopsis villosa) on the red quartzite outcroppings at Falls Park, in Sioux Falls, before Falls Park was "improved". I would think it might also be around the Luverne and Pipestone area.

Posted by: Deborah Jude - Quarry park Waite Park MN
on: 2020-07-16 10:08:19

7/13/20 saw before noon and only a few buds along with lots of seed. Read they bloom midday and only briefly. Fun note,they are related to my garden talinum (seed heads similar).

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore
on: 2023-07-18 10:03:56

I don't have them yet, but will plant the seeds in the desired habitat. I just received the seeds. Should I sprinkle now (even with drought conditions) or wait until fall?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-07-18 16:52:23

luciearl, fall is generally the best time to plant seeds, but wherever you got the seeds from should give you guidance on this particular species.

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