Comprehensive Description

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General: Dotted gayfeather belongs to the composite or sunflower family (Asteraceae). Dotted gayfeather is a native long lived herbaceous forb that is 20 to 80 cm tall, with stems single or in clusters from a woody rootstock. This species taproot system is remarkably extensive; its lateral branches spread 1.0 to 1.5 meters. Weaver (1954) found that the generalized root system more or less thoroughly occupied the first 2.5 meters of soil, absorbing little in the first 30 cm, but sometimes reaching a depth of 5 meters. Its leaves have an alternate arrangement on the stem, are closely spaced and linear, being up to 15 cm long and 1.5 to 5 mm wide. The leaves arch upward, have ciliate margins, and have dotted glands on the surface, thus the common name dotted gayfeather. Flowering heads as tufts arranged in spike like groups at the end of stems. Flowering occurs from August to October. A spike blooms for a long time as flower heads bloom successively from the top down. Flower corollas are small, tubular, 9 to 12 mm long and rose-purple with five pointed lobes and strap like styles protruding. The collection of dotted gayfeather at the Manhattan PMC has the traditional corolla color of rose-purple as well as a percentage of individuals with white corollas. The fruits are 10 ribbed dry achenes, measuring 6 to 7 mm long and each containing a tuft of feathery bristles.

Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. Dotted gayfeather is found through much of the plains region from southern Manitoba to Alberta and from western Missouri to New Mexico and into northern Mexico.

Habitat: It grows on many types of upland, rocky prairie sites in the open where it will receive full sunlight. Weaver (1954) found this species on 58 percent of the upland prairie sites he visited and in 10 percent of those sites it ranked as the most common forb.

Photo byline: Steve Hurst @ USAD-NRCS PLANTS Database.

Dotted gayfeather achenes with tufts of feathery bristles.


Public Domain

USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center Manhattan, Kansas

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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