CPC Plant Profile: Prairie Fameflower
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Plant Profile

Prairie Fameflower (Phemeranthus rugospermus)

This tiny perennial forb produces small flowers on short stalks (only 4 to 8 inches tall) during the months of June to August. Photo Credit: Brian Parsons
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Montiaceae
  • State: TX, WI, AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MN, NE
  • Nature Serve ID: 159101
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/14/1986

This species is of conservation interest as much because it is part of the Karner Blue Butterfly habitat as it is due to its own rarity. This flameflower is thought to be part of the flora of the Great Plains having spread by long distance post-Pleistocene dispersal to become disjunct in the Midwest in the distribution we see today. It can produce flowers any time between June and August depending on where the plant is within its range with each pink flower opening one day only and strictly in the afternoon. These flowers are attractive enough that gardeners use them in rock gardens despite their ephemeral nature. This species is unusual among threatened plants in that it appears to benefit from minor forms of anthropogenic forms of disturbance. Vehicular and foot traffic can sometimes replace the natural disturbances of fire and erosion that humans now suppress. This is a rosette forming species, that has less than a dozen pink flowers. Pink flowers open on only one day in July or August, and strictly in the afternoon. They require light to germinate. Seedlings can emerge from up to 72mm of sand covering the seeds, and grow slowly. Doesn't colonize old fields or roadsides if other prairie or weedy species are present. Plant is shade intolerant and cannot survive in canopy conditions.

Participating Institutions
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Limited range and restricted habitat, rare in most states in range, but fairly frequent and sometimes locally abundant in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

Gopher digging Disturbance of soil by ATV and tanks Trampling Fire suppression (WDNR 1999) Insect herbivory (ILDNR 2002) Shading by Black Locust (ILDNR 2002)

Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

39 populations in 12 counties in IL

Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

Maxwell and Givnish (1994) found that disturbance on small scales can benefit this species. In plots disturbed by soil preparation and herbiciding for subsequent planting of lupine, fameflower was found to occur in much higher densities within the plots than without. At a site in Illinois, the presence of Talinum rugospermum increased after wildfire (Cochrane 1993). Pavlovic has found that the adults are tolerant of fire, though seedlings are more vulnerable (1995). Plants have been observed to be killed by fire, presumable because the buds of next year's growth are at the soil surface (Pavlovic 1989). (all above references from an article at (WIDNR 1999))

Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

Research into the response of the species to soil compaction and timing and intensity of fire, and the proximity to soil disturbance of a seed source for colonization would be most valuable to generate further informed land management decisions concerning Talinum rugospermum. (WIDNR 1999)


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Taxon Phemeranthus rugospermus
Authority (Holz.) Kiger
Family Montiaceae
CPC Number 4192
ITIS 847601
Common Names flameflower | flower-of-an-hour | prairie fame-flower | rough seeded fame-flower | prairie fameflower | rough-seeded fameflower
Associated Scientific Names Talinum rugospermum | Phemeranthus rugospermus
Distribution Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas, eastern Minnesota and Iowa to northern and central Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and northwestern Indiana (WIS 2002)
State Rank
State State Rank
Arkansas S1
Iowa S1
Illinois S3
Indiana S2
Kansas S2
Louisiana S1
Minnesota S1
Nebraska S3S4
Texas S2
Wisconsin S3

Found in open, Exposed sites with minimal competition from other species. Likes xeric prairies, sand barrens, rocky outcrops, gravel river terraces, old fields, trail edges, openings in sandy woods, and margins of sand blows. Also inhabits black oak or jack pine barrens with shifting sand dunes along the Mississippi River. Prefers sand dunes, sandy bluffs, sand blowouts, the sides and tops of dunes, and sparsely vegetated flat areas.

Ecological Relationships

Associated species in sand prairie and barrens in Wisconsin are Andropogon scoparius, Selaginella rupestris, Opuntia compressa, and Panicum virgatum. S. Rupestris is a good indicator species for fameflower as are Allium stellatum, Isanthus brachiatus, Hedyotis longifolia, and Ambrosia a77rtemisiifolia (Judziewicz, 1994). Species that may co-occur as well, on dry prairies of sandstone bedrock or outcrop are Tephrosia virginiana, Hedeoma hispida, and Gnaphalium obtusifolium (Cochrane, 1993). Asclepias amplexicaulis, clasping milkweed, and Hudsonia tomentosa, beach heath, occur with rough-seeded fameflower in Minnesota (Coffin and Pfanmuller, 1988). In Kansas, prairie fameflower, Talinum parviflorum, co-occurs with this rare species. (WI DNR site 2002)

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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