Lance-Leaved Bluets
Houstonia lanceolata
Rubiaceae (Madder family)

Description: This perennial plant is up to 1' tall, branching occasionally and rather bushy when mature. There are scattered hairs along the stems, and the opposite leaves are ciliate, but without serration. The leaves are oblong-lanceolate, broadly lanceolate, or ovate. Each leaf is about 1-2" long and about one-third as wide, with a prominent central vein and a smooth texture. At the ends of the stems are clusters of small flowers. These flowers are usually white or light purple, but sometimes a darker shade of purple. Each flower is about " across, with a short tubular shape and four lobes that flare outward. The reproductive parts are white, except for the light brown anthers. The flowers bloom during late spring or early summer for about a month. There is no floral scent. The small seeds are distributed to some extent by the wind. The root system consists of a branching taproot.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, and moist to slightly dry soil. This plant typically grows in soil that is loamy or rocky. It is not usually bothered by foliar disease, and is one of the easier bluets to maintain in an average garden situation.

Range & Habitat: The native Lance-Leaved Bluets occurs occasionally in the southern half of Illinois, while in the northern half of the state it is rare or absent (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic black soil prairies, rocky upland forests, rocky bluffs, limestone glades, borders of lakes, and pastures. This wildflower is found primarily in higher quality natural areas.

Faunal Associations: The flowers attract long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, flies, small butterflies, skippers, and beetles. Bee visitors include Little Carpenter bees, Nomadine Cuckoo bees, Halictine bees, and Panurgine bees. Other common insect visitors include Syrphid flies, Checkerspot butterflies, Copper butterflies, White butterflies, and Flower Scarab beetles. The seeds of this plant are too small to be of much interest to birds. Limited information is available regarding this plant's attractiveness to mammalian herbivores.

Photographic Location: The photographs were taken at Loda Cemetery Prairie in Iroquois County, Illinois.

Comments: This unassuming little plant is a good candidate for a rock garden, in either sunny or partial shaded areas. It is easily overlooked in the wild, but when it is found in bloom this is always a pleasant surprise. Lance-Leaved Bluets can be distinguished from other bluets by the wideness of its leaves – up to 2/3" (17 mm.) across. Other species of bluets in Illinois have narrow to very narrow leaves. An exception is Houstonia purpurea (Wide-Leaved Bluets), which has leaves up to 1" wide, sometimes with 3 conspicuous veins. This latter species occurs primarily in woodland areas in extreme southern Illinois. Lance-Leaved Bluets is sometimes considered a variety of this species: Hedyotis purpurea calycosa or Houstonia purpurea calycosa, depending on the authority.