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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Less-Common Pussytoes

Field pussytoes are really common. So common, I've never bothered to show you their picture, which means that I can't give you the comparison till another time. For now, you'll have to take my word for it that these are different. I saw this from a distance and thought it was a completely different plant (which we did see just a few minutes later). But I got mildly excited that this was Plantain-leaved Pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia.

photo label

That said, there are something between 6 and 32 species of Antennaria, depending on which expert you ask. But I THINK this isn't one that's under dispute.

The thing that makes it look obviously different from field pussytoes is the leaves. That one has pointed basal leaves with one vein. This one has spatulate basal leaves with 3-5 veins. A lot like plantain. Thus the name. Look closely at the leaves in this second picture.

photo label

The big point of departure from plantain is that pussytoes' leaves have white-wooly undersides. I think the name "pussytoes" comes from the flowers, but the leaves feel soft too, like kitten's toes.

Now for the fun fact that lets me count this as learning something new. This plant is dioecious. That means male and female flowers are on separate plants. Often whole clumps will be one sex or the other, spreading vegetatively. This clump is male, because the flower heads are flat-topped. The female flowers are elongated.

I'll have to get some pictures of the common one this summer to show you side by side. The differences are obvious when seen together.

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