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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Northern Pussy-toes (Antennaria neodioica)

A plant found throughout North Dakota, northern pussy-toes ranges from Newfoundland to Alberta south to Virginia, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The Antennarias are also sometimes called "cats-feet," "ladies' tobacco," and "everlasting."

Northern pussy-toes is a perennial, mat-forming plant with short, leafy runners (stolons). Plants are about 6 inches tall, with a tuft of large basal leaves. Stem leaves are much smaller and appressed along the stem. Stems and leaf bottoms are densely covered with white hairs. Small numbers of whitish flower-heads form in dense clusters atop the stems. Each head is composed of tubular flowers; there are no ray flowers. Fruits are tiny achenes about 1/16-inch long. These plants are dioecious and female plants only have been seen in the Great Plains.

Look for northern pussy-toes in late May or early June on native prairie pastures grazed by cattle. 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.

Northern 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 a 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 name neodioica refers to "the new A. dioica." The species was first described for science by Edward Greene (1843-1915), first professor of botany at the University of California, Berkeley.

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