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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Claytonia virginica L.

Portulacaceae (Purslane Family)

Common Name:

spring beauty

4/28/2002

Spring beauty is a native perennial found in the leaf litter of rich deciduous woods. It’s a true “spring ephemeral” -- it flowers in early spring before the trees begin to leaf out, then sets seed and the above ground parts completely disappear by the time the tree canopy closes in early summer.

Plants are 3 to 6 inches tall and often grow in large colonies.  Individual plants sprout from a thickened section of the stem 4 inches or more inches below the ground surface.  This thickened stem, or corm, stores the food produced by last year’s leaves.

Midway up the stem are two simple, opposite leaves that are long and narrow, flat and fleshy. Flowers are in a loose cluster and open only in the sun.  Each flower has five white to pink petals with dark pink “bee guides” that help pollination.

Most of the purslanes have 5 petals and 5 stamens, but only 2 sepals, and fleshy or succulent leaves.

  • Origin of the name: Claytonia, for John Clayton, 18th c. American botanist; virginica, from Virginia
  • Range:  Newfoundland to GA, west to the Rockies
  • WI Range:  Statewide
  • Common associates: beech, sugar maple, trout lily
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: 6, WI; 4, MI; 2, S&W
     
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