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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Pink Pussy-toes (Antennaria microphylla)

Found almost throughout North Dakota, pink pussy-toes ranges from Ontario and Alaska southwestward to New Mexico and California at elevations up to 11,000 ft. The Antennarias are also sometimes called "cats-feet," "ladies' tobacco," and "everlasting."

Pink pussy-toes is a perennial, mat-forming plant that produces leafy runners (stolons). North Dakota specimens are about 6 inches tall, with a tuft of many small leaves at the base. Stem leaves are only about a half-inch long and appressed along the stem. Stem and leaves are densely covered with white intertwining hairs. Five to 15 tiny flower-heads form a dense cluster atop each stem. These heads are usually greenish- or yellowish-white, but those with a pinkish hue are not uncommon. Each head is composed of tubular flowers; there are no ray flowers. These plants are dioecious and female plants are found much more often than male plants, at least in the Great Plains. Fruits are achenes only about 1/16-inch long.

Look for pink pussy-toes in heavily grazed native pastures after mid-May. I found no references to any economic uses for these small plants, but this true for many prairie plants whose history of use by native Americans has been lost or was never recorded.

Pink pussy-toes is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). This family contains over 15,000 species and is one of the largest plant families in the world. The family is characterized by the arrangement of many flowers into a single head such as seen on dandelion or sunflower. These heads are often erroneously thought to be single flowers by laypersons. Aster means "star" in Greek, in reference to the radiate arrangement of the flowers in the heads. Antennaria was chosen for the generic name because parts of the flower heads resemble insect antennae. There are about 25 species in this genus; all are found in the North Temperate Zone and South America. The specific epithet microphylla means "small- leaved" in botanical Latin. Pink pussy-toes was first named for science in 1897 by the Swedish-born American botanist Per Axel Rydberg (1860-1931), curator of the New York Botanical Garden and author of several major florae of the American west.

Previous Species -- Western Ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya)
Return to Asteraceae (The Aster Family)
Next Species -- Field Pussy-toes (Antennaria neglecta)

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