Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
An odd-shaped plant, prairie fameflower is rare in North Dakota, occurring only in a few counties along the Missouri River near the South Dakota border. Elsewhere, the plant ranges from Minnesota to Arkansas and Arizona at elevations below 8,500 ft.
Prairie fameflower is perennial from fleshy roots. Stems are short or absent. The leaves are all basal, about 2 inches long, and are nearly round in cross-section. A striking feature of the plant is the 6-inch flower stalk (peduncle) that greatly overtops the leaves. The pink-to-purple flowers are about 1/2 inch long and borne in an open cyme. Fruit is a tiny capsule of smooth seeds.
One can begin to look for prairie fameflower in May. The plant is mostly found on sandy soils near rocks and seems to be little used by livestock. The root and leaves of some fameflowers provide foods or medicines in the Tropics and the southwestern United States, but I could find no mention of economic uses for the species discussed here.
Prairie fameflower is North Dakota's only native plant in the purslane family (Portulacaceae). There are about 500 species in this family. Purslanes are a group of mostly edible plants in the genus Portulaca, an old Latin name of unknown meaning. The genus Talinum has about 50 species distributed mostly in the warmer parts of both hemispheres. This name too is obscure and thought to be derived from an aboriginal name for an African species. The specific name parviflorum means "small-flowered" in botanical Latin. Prairie fameflower was described for science by the eminent English-American naturalist Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859). He visited the Mandan villages along the Missouri River in 1810-1811.