CPC Plant Profile: Kitten Tails
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Plant Profile

Kitten Tails (Besseya bullii)

This species, commonly referred to as kittentails, produces a flowering stalk (up to 4 dm tall) during the month of May. Photo Credit: Thomas A. Meyer
Description
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • State: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
  • Nature Serve ID: 153338
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 03/14/1986

Besseya bullii is a short herbaceous plant that is easy to miss...until it blooms. For most of its life, this plant is in the form of a small rosette of hairy basal leaves that are two to five inches in length and have a tendency to hug the ground. However, from April until June this plant sends up a single, fluffy spike of yellowish-green flowers up to sixteen inches tall. At this stage of its life, it is nearly impossible to miss flowering plants of this species.

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/17/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Demographic Research

Steven L. Jessup did research from 1985-1987 entitled ""Species Biology and Management of the Rare and Threatened Herbaceous Perennial, Besseya bullii (Scrophulariaceae)"" for Michigan Dept. Natural Resources Natural Features Inventory. No results published to date.

  • 08/28/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Anita F. Cholewa has been looking at breeding systems, pollination mechanisms, and dispersal mechanisms. No results published to date. M. J. McKone, R. Ostertag, J.T. Rauscher, D.A. Heiser, and F.L. Russell published in 1995, An exception to Darwin's syndrome: floral position, protogyny, and insect visitation in Besseya bullii (Scrophulariaceae) in Oecologia 101:68-74

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Although large populations are found in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois this species is signficantly threatened by lack of management as well as habitat loss from development. While prairie management has increased over the last 20 years, management of savannas and oak woodlands has lagged. These habitats are burned less frequently and have become overgrown, resulting in declines. Specifically, declines in B. bullii have been observed recently in Minnesota and Illinois. That being said, biologists in Wisconsin have noted anecdotally that this species is relatively tolerant of some anthropogenic disturbances such as mowing, trampling and trail building (pers. comm. T. Meyer and K. Kearn). Finally, lack of regular monitoring makes estimating short term trends uncertain (D. Anderson pers comm). Occurrences in Wisconsin and Minnesota that previously were ranked as having good viability have not been observed recently.

Dawn M. Gerlica and Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

Trampling Overgrowth of other plants due to fire suppression (Cusick pers. com.) Crowding Quarrying (Cusick pers. com.)

Dawn M. Gerlica and Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

Illinois Recorded in 23 populations in seven counties (Herkert & Ebinger 2002) Indiana Recorded in 4 counties: Elkhart, LaGrange, Tippecanoe, White (INDNR 1999) Iowa not much information available. Michigan Recorded in 7 counties: Barry, Ionia, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, St. Joseph, Van Buren. Minnesota No counties recorded, but found at several sites including: Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College, Anoka Sand Plain State Natural Area, Big Woods, Southern Oak Barrens, Myre-Big Island State Park, and the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area in Dakota County Ohio Presumed extirpated. Collected once in 1904 from Montgomery County (OHDNR 2001) Wisconsin Recorded in 11 counties: Dane, Green, Jefferson, Pierce, Polk, Racine, Rock, St. Croix, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha (WIDNR 2002) From 1-21 plants found at each site within the past 20 years (Wisconsin NHI 2001)

Dawn M. Gerlica and Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

Anita F. Cholewa has been looking at breeding systems, pollination mechanisms, and dispersal mechanisms. No results published to date. Steven L. Jessup did research from 1985-1987 entitled ""Species Biology and Management of the Rare and Threatened Herbaceous Perennial, Besseya bullii (Scrophulariaceae)"" for Michigan Dept. Natural Resources Natural Features Inventory. No results published to date. M. J. McKone, R. Ostertag, J.T. Rauscher, D.A. Heiser, and F.L. Russell published in 1995, An exception to Darwin's syndrome: floral position, protogyny, and insect visitation in Besseya bullii (Scrophulariaceae) in Oecologia 101:68-74.

Dawn M. Gerlica and Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

In 1995, an oak savanna restoration was initiated at Myre-Big Island State Park in south-central Minnesota. The restoration was mostly removal of exotic species, but the indication is that Besseya bullii, as well as a few other rare plant species characteristic of oak savanna, have returned to the site. (Buchanan 2002)

Dawn M. Gerlica and Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

None found

Dawn M. Gerlica and Lindsey Parsons
  • 01/01/2010

None found

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Nomenclature
Taxon Besseya bullii
Authority (Eat.) Rydb.
Family Plantaginaceae
CPC Number 556
ITIS 33497
USDA BEBU
Common Names bull's coraldrops | kitten tails | kittentails | Northern kittentail
Associated Scientific Names Besseya bullii | Synthyris bullii | Wulfenia bullii
Distribution Found from southern Michigan to Minnesota, south to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. (Herkert & Ebinger 2002)
State Rank
State State Rank
Iowa S3
Illinois S3
Indiana S1
Michigan S1S2
Minnesota S2
Ohio SH
Wisconsin S3
Habitat

Sandy grasslands, prairies, open oak woods or hillsides, savanna, barrens, and wetlands. (Ohio DNR 2001)

Ecological Relationships

Unknown

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Sweat bees Augochlorella striata Confirmed Pollinator Link
Sweat bees Halictidae Confirmed Pollinator Link
Sweat bees Augochlorella striata Floral Visitor Link
Sweat bees Dialictus spp. Link
Other
self-pollinates Confirmed Pollinator Link

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