Plant of the Week
Quill Fameflower (Phemeranthus teretifolius (Pursh) Raf.)
By David Taylor
Quill fameflower is a member of the Portulacaceae, the Purslane family. This family includes spring beauty, montia, and the weedy introduced purslane among others. Many of the species in the family are succulent or fleshy, adapted for arid or saline environments. In older manuals, this species is called Talinum teretifolium Pursh. Sixteen species of fameflower are recognized in North America, most from the southwest or plains states. Phemeranthus means ephemeral flower in reference to the short life of each flower.
This species is 5 to 50 centimeters (2 to 20 inches) tall. The stem is somewhat weak and fleshy. The alternate, more or less round leaves are 3 to 6 centimeters (1.2 to 2.4 inches) long and four millimeters (1/6 in) wide at the widest. The dark green leaves are fleshy, like the stems. Leaves are usually tightly packed on the stems. Flowers are borne on long stems (peduncles) that overtop the leaves. The flowers are a rosy purple or fushia, with 5 petals and 12 to 20 yellow stamens. Each petal is 5 to 7 millimeters (0.2 to 0.3 inches) long to make a flower about 19 millimeters (3/4 in) across. Only one or two flowers on a single penduncle bloom on a single day. The flowers open about 3 pm EDT and close before sunset, lasting only one day. A single large plant may produce one hundred or so flowers.
Quill fameflower is a species of glades growing in thin rocky or sandy soil on sandstone, granitic and serpentine outcrops, usually in the open or under light shade. This species is found in Pennsylvania south to Georgia, west to Alabama and north to Kentucky.
This species flowers beginning in April and continues into October. It is an excellent pollen plant and is visited by many species of bees. Some native plant nurseries sell this plant, which does well in a garden if given well-drained soil. Please do not collect this plant from the wild. Its habitat is fragile and its stems are easily broken from the roots.