Claytonia virginica (Virginia Spring Beauty)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Claytonia
Family:Portulacaceae (Purslane)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade; moist woods
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:3 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Two to 10+ stalked flowers in a raceme at the top of the stem that elongates by several inches as the plant matures. Each flower is up to ½ inch (5 to 12 mm) across with 5 pale pink to white petals with darker pink veins and a spot of yellow at the base, and 5 pink-tipped stamens.

[photo of sepals] Cupping the flower is a pair of green to purple-tinged, egg-shaped sepals shorter than the petals. The flowers close up at night and on cloudy days. Closed flowers and buds nod down and become erect when the flower opens.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] A single pair of oppositely attached leaves is about midway up the stem; a few similar basal leaves are usually also present. Leaves are 2½ to 6 inches (6 to 15 cm) long, ¼ to ½ inch (5 to 13 mm) wide, narrowly lance-elliptic to linear, toothless, hairless, tapering to a pointed tip and tapering at the base. Stem leaves are stalkless or nearly so, basal leaves may have a stalk longer or shorter than the blade. Stems are erect or prostrate from the base before rising (decumbent) and hairless. One or more stems may arise from globular tubers.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round, 3-sectioned capsule containing several smooth, shiny seeds 2 to 3 mm long. The seeds have a coating that attracts ants, which disperse the seeds.

Notes:

Spring Beauties are a welcome sight after a long Minnesota winter and are one of our true woodland spring ephemerals, the flowers short-lived, quickly producing fruit, and the whole plant withering away into dormancy by the time trees are fully leafed out. Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) is very similar, but has shorter and wider leaves, and is only found in northeast Minnesota, mostly within a few miles of Lake Superior's north shore.

Fun fact: we took an early spring trip south some years ago and discovered Virginia Spring Beauty as common a lawn weed in Arkansas as violets are here.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Mille Lacs, Ramsey and Rice counties, and in Arkansas. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Goodhue County.

Comments

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

Posted by: Donn H
on: 2009-05-08 05:53:57

This plant is seen growing in Douglas County at Lake Carlos State Park, Minnesota

Posted by: Jim - Hopkins
on: 2010-04-11 22:31:47

I saw several of these plants today (Sunday, April 11) while on a walk.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2013-12-24 18:11:20

This plant was abundant at Bur Oak Wildlife Management Area in Le Sueur County in May 2013 (it would probably be earlier in a more normal season). It was the most abundant spring ephemeral at the site (though not distributed throughout the entire site), followed by Dutchman's Breeches.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2014-05-08 08:57:54

Spring Beauties are flowering heavily at Bur Oak WMA in Le Sueur County right now, often forming a carpet on the forest floor. If someone else visits, they occur almost exclusively in approximately the northwest quarter of the easternmost wooded section of the WMA.Dutchman's Breeches and Bloodroot are also in bloom there. I'll also note that I have not yet visited the western forested section of the WMA, which is separated from the eastern section by water.

Posted by: cindy - twin cities metro
on: 2015-05-20 19:50:24

There were lots of these blooming along the Terrace Loop trail in Wild River State Park the weekend of May 9.

Posted by: Shelby - Rice County
on: 2016-05-08 13:07:35

Found several of these blooming in the middle of the Hope Trail loop at Nerstrand-Big Woods St Pk.

Posted by: Timothy - Brooklyn Park
on: 2016-05-16 11:11:10

The forest floor on Oberg Mountain near Lutzen, MN was resplendent with Claytonia virginica yesterday on a sunny Sunday afternoon 5/15/16.

Posted by: Douglas S - Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
on: 2017-05-02 21:04:00

5/2/2017 Several blooming along trail to Hidden Falls.

Posted by: Carolyn M - NW Fillmore County
on: 2017-05-08 08:47:45

I found these growing in a part of the lawn that was not mowed for about three weeks. Semi-shade near a birch tree (we planted). I will search for more in a lightly wooded area nearby. Flowers were petite light pink. I tried to dig to move to a less disturbed area, but don't know if that will work.

Posted by: Jessica - Byron
on: 2018-05-02 14:55:27

These are out in abundance right now at Oxbow Park in Byron, MN!

Posted by: Barb - Wolsfeld Wood SNA
on: 2018-05-13 08:19:44

Beautiful large patch 5/12/18.

Posted by: Jessica Marquez - Southeastern MN
on: 2019-04-17 01:11:54

These have just begun blooming at Oxbow Park.

Posted by: Kimerly Wilcox - Otsego, Wright Co.
on: 2019-05-14 17:01:14

We have had a few plants in one area of our backyard for years. I look forward to seeing them each year. Blooming now.

Posted by: Joseph Lindgren - Jay Cooke State Park, Carlton County
on: 2019-06-02 07:00:53

On 5/31, found a hillside covered with these, in full bloom.

Posted by: Kathy & Doug Wood - Stearns county north of Sartell in our woods along the Zmisd
on: 2020-02-13 02:48:24

Such delicate little plants, always done blooming too soon.

Posted by: ella - Stillwater
on: 2020-05-02 15:05:36

We have this growing and spreading (with some assistance) on east side of yard of an old house, around where there used to be a large basswood tree. It continues to spread, especially perhaps after last season's high rainfall. We avoid mowing this area of the lawn until it's gone to seed and turning yellow. Some yellow trout lilies grow in smaller patches in same area, as well as several species of violets. Quite a site when in full bloom!

Posted by: Herta Wolf Pitman - St Paul
on: 2020-05-16 19:55:10

Three or four patches, totaling a few square feet appeared in my yard this spring. I've never had them before.

Posted by: Peter Swenson - Nerstrand State Park
on: 2023-05-30 13:21:46

One small patch on the Beaver Trail seen on 5/12/2023

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