Packera cana (Woolly Groundsel)
|Also known as:||Gray Ragwort, Silvery Ragwort|
|Habitat:||sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; prairies, plains, rocky slopes, outcrops|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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An erect cluster of 8 to 15 flowers that is more or less flat across the top in profile, the stalks long and slender, often all attached at the very tip of the stem, though a few stalks may be branched. Flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across, daisy-like with a golden yellow center disk and 8, 10 or 13 yellow rays (petals).
Cupping the flower head are 13 or 21 narrow, floral bracts (phyllaries), usually green or sometimes purplish, with sparse to dense matted hairs especially around the tip end. Flower stalks are densely covered in matted hairs; a few scale-like bracts are scattered along the stalk.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are mostly erect, 1 to 2 inches long, up to about ½ inch wide, toothless. Both upper and lower surfaces are densely covered in matted white hairs, especially the underside, the upper surface sometimes becoming smooth with age. Basal leaves are in a dense clump. Basal and the lowest stem leaves are generally lance-elliptic with a blunt to rounded tip, tapering at the base to a long, slender stalk.
Mid to upper stem leaves are few, widely spaced, lance-oblong in outline, deeply lobed to coarsely toothed, and stalkless or nearly so. Stems are stout, unbranched, single or multiple from the base, weakly ridged, and densely covered in matted white hairs. The woolly hairs give the whole plant a silvery cast.
Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of hair (pappus) to carry it off in the wind.
A rare species in Minnesota, Woolly Groundsel was first collected near Fertile in Polk County in 1942 and not seen again until the 1990s, when 4 sites in Marshall and Polk counties were discovered during biological surveys of our northwest counties. According to the DNR, these 4 locations were thought to be the only known populations in the state and it was subsequently listed as an Endangered species in 1996. A new site was found in 2015 just a few miles from the original collection site near Fertile. Perhaps more will be found in the near future, but the rocky prairie habitat favored by this species is vulnerable to gravel mining and keeps it at risk. While the flowers of Woolly Groundsel resemble those of other Packera species, it is easily distinguished by the dense covering of woolly hairs on leaves and stems, which give the plant a silvery cast.
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- Woolly Groundsel plant
- Woolly Groundsel plant
- Woolly Groundsel prairie habitat
- Woolly Groundsel rocky slope habitat
- budding plant
- basal leaf clump
- rediscovered in Polk County
Photos courtesy John Thayer taken in Polk County and in North Dakota. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Montana.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?