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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Narrow-leaved Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum)

Specimens of narrow-leaved puccoon have been collected in nearly every county in North Dakota. The plant occurs across much of southern Canada, and south through the prairies and plains states to northern Mexico, at elevations up to 8,500 ft.

A perennial from a heavy black taproot, narrow-leaved puccoon may grow as a single, nearly unbranched stem or as dozens of stems branched into a fine bushy appearance. In North Dakota, plants are up to 15 inches tall. Leaves are very narrow, roughened with short, stiff hairs, and about 1-2 inches long. The slender, lemon-yellow flowers are very distinctive, because the edges of the petals are minutely fringed as if gnawed by an insect.

Look for narrow-leaved puccoon on dry soils in moderately grazed native prairie. The plant is never abundant enough to be an important forage plant. Several members of this genus are used as sources of dyes. Root bark on narrow-leaved puccoon yields a bright purple pigment.

This plant is a member of the borage family (Boraginaceae). Borage is an old name, presumably of folk origin, for a European plant in this family. The generic name was compounded from the Greek for "stone-seed," referring to the bony white nutlets produced at maturity. The specific epithet incisum probably refers to the sharply cleft petals. Narrow-leaved puccoon was described for science in 1818 by German botanist Johann Lehmann (1792-1860), director of the botanic garden at Hamburg.

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