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Woolly Pussytoes

Antennaria villifera

  • Latin synonym: Antennaria lanata
  • Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
    (formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 5–30 cm (2–12 in.). Stem unbranched, quite densely haired. Runnerless, tufted.
  • Flower: Dioecious (male and female flowers on different individuals), male and female plants equally common. Single flower-like capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitulum lacks ray-florets; disk florets white (female shoots) or pink (male shoots), tubular. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Involucral bracts overlapping, completely dark – blackish brown or tip membranous, with ragged margins, either lanceolate and with tapering tips (female shoots) or tongue-like–elliptic and quite round-tipped (male shoots), white–light brown. Capitula 3–6 in a in a compact globose group, pedicels short.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and alternate on stem. Rosette leaf blades (narrowly) elliptic–linear, with tapering tips, both sides densely haired or scantly haired on top. Stem leaves’ blades narrowly elliptic, uppermost with a brown, curly haired tip.
  • Fruit: Achene, crowned by a pappus of unbranched hairs. Seeds seldom ripen.
  • Habitat: Fell tundra moors, meadows, Lappish rock faces, frostlands, snow-bed sites. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: July–August.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened, protected in all of Finland.

Mountain everlasting (A. dioica) is a well-known plant, but on the other hand it is not so well known that, depending on the way of counting, it is one of three or five close relatives that grow in the wild in Finland. The others are not so well known because they grow in the northern Lappish fells. Most genus Antennaria species grow in North America.

In Finland woolly pussytoes grows exclusively on the tundra of the roughly 12 large Enontekiö fells. Many stands are however very small, comprised of only a few dozen plants. The first stand that was found, which is also the species’ southernmost stand, is on Jehkats Fell, to the north of Saana. The species was discovered in Finland only in 1912, and no wonder: a hundred years ago northwest Finnish Lapland was pure wilderness, and fell walking was not everybody’s idea of fun. Trekkers with good luck can chance upon woolly pussytoes’ habitats in Lapland near Halti, which is home to the country’s biggest stand: a couple of hundred plants grow there in around 5 acres. The best place to look for the species is on fell tundra moors and short-growth meadows, snow-bed sites, frostlands and especially the banks of meltwater streams.

Woolly pussytoes’ leaves are much larger than its close relatives’, and they are erect, tapered and three-veined. The difference in size is clear: woolly pussytoes’ rosette leaves are 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in.) long, while on other species they are usually 2 cm (0.8 in.) at the most. It also completely lacks runners, which its relatives use to form patch-like stands. The size and form of woolly pussytoes’ leaves are the same as highland cudweed (Gnaphalium norwegicum), which it can be difficult to differentiate from before it flowers.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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