Phlox maculata (Wild Sweet William)
|Also known as:||Spotted Phlox, Meadow Phlox, Speckled Phlox|
|Habitat:||sun; moist soil; wet meadows, prairies, ditches|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: none MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
A cylindrical, branched cluster to 12 inches long at the top of the stem, plus smaller clusters arising from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are about ¾ inch across, 5 pale pink to pinkish purple petals fused at the base forming a long slender tube. Inside the tube are yellow-tipped stamens, a few of which barely poke out of the tube. At the base of the tube is a slender, usually hairless calyx about ¼ inch long, with 5 narrow lobes.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are 2 to 5 inches long, lance-linear to narrowly oblong or egg-shaped, toothless, hairless, with a long taper to a pointed or blunt tip, rounded to nearly heart-shaped at the base, and stalkless. The stem is erect, unbranched except in the flowers, hairless or minutely hairy, and typically spotted red.
Fruit is an oval capsule about 1/3 inch long, longer than the calyx tube.
According to the DNR, Wild Sweet William was probably rather common in pre-settlement times, but the conversion of wet/mesic prairie in southeast Minnesota to agriculture has destroyed or degraded most of its habitat. Further risk of decline comes from invasive species such as Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which is rapidly taking over roadsides and invading natural areas across the southern counties. Only 12 populations of Wild Sweet William are known to still exist; it was designated a Special Concern species in 2013. There are 2 subspecies noted in several references, though they are not currently recognized in Minnesota: subsp. maculata, which has the cylindrical flower cluster described above, and subsp. pyramidalis, which has (you guessed it) a more pyramidal shaped cluster. Wild Sweet William flowers resemble other Phlox species, notably Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa), which is a smaller, hairier, dry prairie plant, and Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), which is a larger plant with distinct venation on the leaves. The red-spotted stem of Wild Sweet William further distinguishes it from other species.
Please visit our sponsors
Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓
- Wild Sweet William plant
- clusters arising from leaf axils
- pale flowers
- Wild Sweet William habitat, with encroaching Wild Parsnip
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Mower County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?