Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
It is a delight to discover the neat little field pussy-toes while on a spring stroll across the North Dakota prairie. Field pussy-toes also occurs in open woods and prairies across southcentral and southeastern Canada and most of the central and eastern United States, southwest to Arizona at elevations up to 10,000 ft.
Walk along the flat bases of the prairie hills, and you may see short gray stems with little furry balls unfolding at the tops like white kittens' feet. These balls are the tiny compound flower heads of field pussy-toes. The whole plant may be less than three inches tall. The whitish-green, spoon-shaped basal leaves lie flat on the ground. Plants may occur individually, but usually are found in small clumps or mats. Fruits are achenes only about 1/16-inch long.
Field pussy-toes is not relished by livestock, nor can it tolerate a great amount of shading by other plants, so look for it in heavily grazed pastures.
Field 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 composite arrangement of many flowers into a single head such as that of the sunflower. These heads are often erroneously thought of as single flowers by laypersons. Aster means "star" in Greek, in reference to the radiaate arrangement of the flowers in the heads. Antennaria was chosen for the generic name because parts of the heads resemble insect antennae. Botanists named the species neglecta because its status as a separate species was overlooked for many years. Not until 1897 was the plant officially described for science by Edward Greene (1843-1915), first professor of botany at the University of California.