2008 Kansas Wildflower of the Year
Lithospermum incisum Lehm.
Text by Dr. Nancy Goulden
The 2008 Wildflower of the Year, Fringed puccoon (Lithospermum incisum), chosen by Kansas Associated Garden Clubs and Kansas Native Plant Society, is one of those delightful spring surprises. It is found throughout the state on dry upland prairies or dry woods.. Fringed Pucoon is usually not common enough to be taken for granted; but the occurrence of the blooming plant during April and May is sufficient that alert wildflower fans have a good chance of spotting the elegant, but modest, perennial. What most searchers notice first are the trumpet-shaped bright yellow flowers, with their charming frilled lobes. They are found in crowded clusters at the top of the 4 to 16 inch tall plants. Dark green, narrow, linear leaves, arranged in alternate pattern on multiple stems provide a complementary bouquet-like setting for the sun-burst of flowers.
These showy early spring flowers are cross-pollinated. However, a second set of self-pollinating flowers is produced in late spring or summer. The casual observer may be unaware of these later flowers because they are much smaller and the colorful corolla is minute (less than 1/4 inch long) or completely missing.
The “fringed” part of the name is obvious from the decorative edges of the five-lobes of each flower. “Puccoon” is an Indian word used to refer to plants that produce dyes. In the case of most species of the Puccoons, including L. incisum, a purple dye is produced from the roots. This group of plants also has a variety of medicinal applications. The genus “Lithospermum” (“stone seed”) comes from the single seed in each of the 4 shiny, white nutlets of the fruits. “Incism” means “cut into” and, of course, is describing the margins of the flower lobes. Alternative common names for L. incisum are: Wayside gromwell, Narrowleaf gromwell, and puccoon.
Because this is such an attractive plant, KNPS members may be interested in adding it to their own native plant gardens.
Former KNPS President Jeff Hansen reports that he has found Fringed Puccoon “pretty easy to grow.” He has been growing it from seed and has had good germination and also good seed production from the adult plants. He notes that seeds may germinate in either spring or fall. Jeff will have plants for sale in the spring and seeds for sale next fall. You can contact Jeff at: www.kansasnativeplants.com.
Kelly Kindscher in Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie recommends root cuttings as a alternative means of propagation, and in some cases, a more reliable approach over either seeds or transplanting. He says, “Root cuttings 5 cm long, taken in the fall and treated with a root hormone, will produced some success. The cutting should be planted right side up 5 cm deep.” We would suggest that KNPS members also check other sources in their area for Fringed Puccoon. Tell your local nursery about “Wildflower of the Year” and encourage them to stock and promote Fringed Puccoon.