Claytonia virginica L. - Spring Beauty

Claytonia virginica plant

Family - Portulacaceae

Stems - To 30cm tall, typically erect, herbaceous, subsucculent, glabrous, herbaceous, from a corm.

Leaves - Cauline leaves opposite, linear, glabrous, to +10cm long, typically 2-5mm broad, with single midrib, sessile, entire.

Claytonia virginica leaves

Inflorescence - Terminal raceme. Buds nodding, erect in flower. Pedicels to 3cm long, glabrous. Inflorescence subtended by single sessile ovate bract. Bract entire, to 5mm long, 4mm broad, glabrous, green.

Claytonia virginica inflorescence

Flowers - Petals 5, obovate, to +1cm long, +5mm broad, entire, glabrous, rounded at apex, white with pink veins or pinkish with darker veins. Stamens 3-5, erect. Filaments pinkish, glabrous, expanded at base and surrounding ovary, 4mm long. Anthers pink, +1mm long. Ovary obovoid, green, glabrous, 1.6mm long, 1.2mm broad, sub 3-sided, unilocular. Styles 3, united below, to 4mm long, free in the apical 1mm or so, pinkish at apex. Sepals 2, green, to 7mm long 4mm broad, lance-ovate, glabrous, acute. Capsules to 4mm long, glabrous, 3-valved.

Claytonia virginica sepalsSepals.

Claytonia virginica flower

Claytonia virginica flowerPinkish flower.

Flowering - February - May.

Habitat - Dry open woods, glades, slopes, prairies, low woods.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This little plant is one of the earliest bloomers in spring. The flowering period is actually quite long for such an early plant. The plant is easy to ID in the field because of its distinctive flowers and its thin opposite cauline leaves. Apparently the species is edible and fairly tasty but I have never eaten it.

Photographs taken in Umstead State Park, NC., 3-23-03 and at Rock Hill Park, Boone County, MO., 3-27-04.


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