Pussytoes

I previously wrote about pussypaws. Antennaria rosea is another plant whose flowers’ resemblance (at least to some people) to cats’ feet gave it the common name pussytoes. Pussytoes, a member of the aster family, is native to the mountains of western North America. It can be found in diverse habitats including dry or moist montane meadows, dry open sites, alpine rock fields and open woodlands.

A morphologically diverse species, pussytoes can often be difficult to identify because of hybridization with other species. The flower stalk has  few narrow, alternate leaves. Additional leaves are often clumped at the base of the stem. The stems and leaves are often covered by soft hairs.

Pussytoes flowers are composed only of disc flowers. Small papery bracts, pink to white in color, surround the disc flowers. Several flower heads in a cluster form the inflorescence. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants. Pussytoes can exhibit apomixis, that is, asexual reproduction without fertilization. In some areas male plants are completely absent. In addition, pussytoes can change from female to male plants and back again. (Another post someday!) Fascinating!

The pussytoes fruit is an achene (small, dry, one seeded, nutlike fruit) topped by a pappus of white hairs that assist in wind dispersal of the seeds. A mat or tuft of pussytoes with mature achenes is so pretty.

Pussytoes flowers that are picked and dried after blooming make lovely bouquets and are commercially used as floral accents.

A perennial, pussytoes are also commonly referred to as rosy everlasting. The genus name, Antennaria, derives from the resemblance of the seed pappus to an insect antenna.

These pussytoes were growing along the shore of Eagle Lake (Lassen County CA).

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