Antennaria monocephala
pygmy pussytoes

Alaska Wildflowers | White

The single flowering head of antennaria monocephala, commonly known as "pygmy pussytoes."

Antennaria monocephala
pygmy pussytoes

Common Names

cat’s paw
one-headed everlasting
one-headed pussytoes
pygmy pussytoes
single-headed cat’s paw
single-head pussytoes
single-headed pussytoes

Synonyms

none

Subspecies

Antennaria monocephala ssp. angustata
Antennaria monocephala ssp. monocephala
(subspecies discussion below)

Genus: Antennaria
Family: Asteraceae
Order: Asterales
taxonomic heirarchy

Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Forb/herb

Identification and Information

Antennaria monocephala, commonly known as pygmy pussytoes or one-head(ed) pussytoes, is a small, loosely mat-forming perennial herb that grows from fibrous, branching roots (rhizomes) and 2-4 cm long stolons. The aerial stems are erect and 2-16 cm tall. The spatulate (spoon-shaped) basal leaves form a rosette and are 5-20 mm long and 2-5 mm wide. They are typically grey and woolly below and green and glabrous above with a single nerve. The stem leaves are linear, alternately arranged, similar in coloration to the basal leaves, 4-11 mm long, and reduced upward along the flowering stem.



The inflorescence has a solitary, terminal head (rarely 2-3). It is subtended by several layers of lanceolate involucral bracts, the upper layers of which are brown, dark brown, or black. The flowers are radially symmetric and unisexual. The sepals are represented by a whitish pappus (modified calyx) with a single row of hairs. The conventional petals are smaller and eclipsed by the pappus. The male plant has thick stamens that project beyond the calyx, resembling insect antennae, for which the plant is named. The plants produce achenes 1-1.4 mm long with a bristle-like pappus. It primarily spreads vegetatively rather than by seed.

A. monocephala consists of two recognized subspecies: A. monocephala ssp. monocephala and A. monocephala ssp. angustata. The primary distinguishing feature between these subspecies lies in their reproductive biology and distribution.

Subspecies monocephala

  • Reproductive Biology: Sexual or dioecious, with male and female plants in roughly equal numbers.
  • Distribution: Found in southern Alaska, Yukon Territory, and adjacent areas of the Northwest Territories, and the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia.
  • Morphology: Leaves are typically glabrous-strigose on the adaxial (upper) surface, and stems are also smooth. Chromosome count is diploid (2n = 28).
  • Role: An amphimictic progenitor of the A. alpina agamic complex and the sexual progenitor of the apomictic A. monocephala subsp. angustata.

Subspecies angustata

  • Reproductive Biology: Apomictic or gynodioecious (asexual reproduction), with no male plants present.
  • Distribution: Extends across the Canadian Arctic, from Alaska and northern Yukon to Greenland, and down the western Cordillera into Montana and Wyoming.
  • Morphology: Leaves and stems are floccose-tomentose (covered in dense woolly hairs). Chromosome count ranges from tetraploid (2n = 56) to octoploid (2n = 112).
  • Notes: Synonymized with A. pygmaea, a species described from Labrador.

The Flora of North America, Flora of British Columbia, and Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, linked in the references below, discuss subspecies in more detail.


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Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

No traditional, medicinal, or culinary uses were found specific to Antennaria monocephala. There are some references to the Antennaria genus in general as used as a cold remedy either as an infusion or chewing parts of the plant.


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Antennaria monocephala is primarily distributed in northern North America, including Alaska and much of Canada, but is absent in the central and southeastern provinces of Canada. In the United States it is listed as vulnerable in Montana and imperiled in Wyoming. Outside of North America, it is found in Greenland, eastern Siberia, and near Lake Baikal in Russia.

The plant is commonly found in tundra and alpine tundra, meadows, snowbeds, slopes, ridges, and other imperfectly drained or moderately drained areas.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
SuperdivisionEmbryophyta 
DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
ClassMagnoliopsida 
SuperorderAsteranae 
OrderAsterales 
FamilyAsteraceae (sunflowers, tournesols)
GenusAntennaria Gaertn. (pussytoes)
SpeciesAntennaria monocephala DC. (pygmy pussytoes)
 Direct Children:
SubspeciesAntennaria monocephala ssp. angustata (Greene) Hultén (pygmy pussytoes)
SubspeciesAntennaria monocephala ssp. monocephala DC. (pygmy pussytoes)

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Pratt, V. E. (1989). Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways (p. 58). Alaskakrafts, inc.

Brandenburg, D. M. 2010. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America. Sterling Publishing. (p. 94 Genus only – species not included)

Johnson, D., Kershaw, L., & MacKinnon, A. (2020). Plants of the Western Forest: Alaska to Minnesota Boreal and Aspen Parkland (3rd ed., p. 179 genus only). Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1772130591.

Classification and Taxonomy

ITIS. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala (TSN 36741). Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=36741#null

VASCAN. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala. Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/2821?lang=en

USDA. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala (USDA Plants Profile). Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=ANMO9

Uses

NAEB. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala. Retrieved May 6, 2024, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/species/281/

Map and Distribution

GBIF. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala (GBIF). Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/5385508

Kew Science. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala (POWO – Kew). Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:176984-1

NatureServe. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala (NatureServe Explorer). Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.140591/Antennaria_monocephala

Description and Information

Flora of North America. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala. Retrieved May 6, 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Antennaria_monocephala

Hultén, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants (1st ed.) (pg. 873-875). Stanford University Press.

UAF Ecological Atlas. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala (Ecological Atlas). Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-page/?nps_id=78

UBC Herbarium Atlas. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala. Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Antennaria%20monocephala&redblue=Both&lifeform=7

AAFlora. (n.d.). Antennaria monocephala. Retrieved May 6, 2024, from https://nature.ca/aaflora/data/www/asanmo.htm

 

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