perennial wildflower is 1-2½' tall and usually unbranched, except
toward the apex where the flowers occur. Often a cluster of leafy stems
originate from the same taproot. The rather stout stems are light
green, very hairy, and either terete or shallowly grooved. Along each
stem, there are 12 or more alternate leaves that are ascending to
widely spreading. Individual leaves are 1½-3" long, ¼-¾" across,
pale green to dark green, and sessile; they are narrowly lanceolate to
lanceolate with margins that are toothless and ciliate. Both the upper
and lower surfaces of the leaves are hairy.
The upper stems terminate in
curved racemes of flowers, forming together a flat-headed cluster of
flowers. Each flower is about ¾" across, consisting of a yellow to
orange-yellow corolla with 5 large rounded lobes, a green hairy calyx
with 5 linear-lanceolate teeth, 5 inserted stamens, and a pistil with
an inserted style. The tubular corolla has a narrow throat with widely
spreading lobes; it is minutely hairy just below the opening of the
throat. On some plants, the flowers have long stamens and short styles,
while the flowers of other plants have short stamens and long styles.
The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, lasting
about 4 weeks. There is no noticeable floral scent. Afterwards, each
flower is replaced by 4 shiny white nutlets (or sometimes fewer) that
are visible from above. They are distributed by gravity and usually
remain near the mother plant. The root system consists of a short stout
taproot that is red to reddish purple. This wildflower reproduces by
The preference is full or partial
sun, dry-mesic to dry conditions, and sandy soil. Because the nutlets
are difficult to germinate and transplants often fail, this wildflower
is not widely available from nurseries, and as a result it is rarely
Range & Habitat:
The native Hairy Puccoon is occasional in sandy areas of central and
Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is rare or absent (see
Habitats include open sandy woodlands, sandy
savannas, upland sand prairies, sandy hill prairies, sand
along Lake Michigan, and sandy embankments along roads and railroads.
Occasional disturbance from wildfires and other sources is beneficial
if it reduces competition from woody vegetation.
The showy flowers are cross-pollinated by
butterflies and skippers as Lycaeides
and Poanes hobomok
(Hobomok Skipper). The larvae of a long-horned
, feed on native Lithospermum spp.
(puccoons), probably by boring through the stems or roots. The adults
of this beetle mimic fireflies (Lampyridae), probably because of the
latter's unpalatability to birds and other predators. The caterpillars
(Streaked Ethmia Moth) and Ethmia fuscipedella
Ethmia Moth) are known to feed on native puccoons as well. The latter
moth is also referred to as Ethmia
Deer occasionally browse on Hairy Puccoon.
A sandy savanna at the Oak Openings Nature
Preserve in NW
Ohio, and a stabilized sand dune with scattered oak trees at the
Dunes State Park in NW Indiana.
The flowers of this
wildflower are very showy and brilliantly colored – they can be seen
from a considerable distance. Hairy Puccoon is one of three native
) in Illinois. It can be distinguished from
Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum
) by its larger flowers, rough
hairs on its foliage, and somewhat greater height. Hoary Puccoon has an
abundance of hairs on its foliage, but they have a softer texture. The
remaining native species, Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum
flowers with fringed lobes, rather than rounded lobes. This latter
species also has more narrow leaves. There are some Lithospermum spp.
from Eurasia in Illinois, but none of them have the showy yellow to
orange-yellow flowers of the native puccoons. Sometimes the scientific
name of Hairy Puccoon is spelled Lithospermum carolinense
specimens of Hairy Puccoon in Illinois (and Ohio) are considered
examples of a northern variety of this species, Lithospermum
. Some authors (e.g., Mohlenbrock,
2014) prefer to
treat this variety as a distinct species, Lithospermum croceum
this viewpoint is not widely accepted at the present time.