Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Savanna Cowbane - Oxypolis ternata   (Nuttall) A. Heller
Members of Apiaceae:
Members of Oxypolis with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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Author(Nuttall) A. Heller
DistributionPresent mainly in the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) belts, in the southeastern Coastal Plain and the Sandhills. Of spotty occurrence in the central portion of the Coastal Plain, ranging north to Martin County.

This species has a small Southeastern range, from eastern NC (and formerly one site in southeastern VA) south to western FL.
AbundanceUncommon to infrequent from Craven County to the SC line, and in the Sandhills east to Cumberland County. Rare to uncommon elsewhere in the province. This was formerly a Watch List species as identified by the NCNHP. Even so, it has a Global Rank of just G3, a scarce species rangewide.
HabitatThis is a species of high-quality, well-managed (with fire) wetland sites in Longleaf Pine habitats. It is essentially found in wet pine savannas and in sandhill seepages, and fares poorly with disturbance or fire suppression.
PhenologyBlooms quite late in the season, from September into October, and fruits in October and November.
IdentificationThis is a very slender species, and though ranging to 2-3 feet tall, it has a thin stem and very slender/narrow leaves. The few stem leaves are alternate and once-divided into 3 very narrow leaflets, about 4-5 inches long and barely 1/5-inch wide, with a long petiole often 4-5 inches long. One or two leaves can be undivided, but the plant seldom has more than about 3 leaves. The terminal umbel and any others on upper branches are flat-topped, about 3 inches across, and consist of small white flowers -- each appearing quite open. Without the white umbels catching your eye, it is very easy to walk past a vegetative plant, as it blends into the background owing to very narrow leaflets and stem.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Piedmont Cowbane (a very poor name, as it is almost strictly a Coastal Plain species)
State RankS3
Global RankG3
State Status
US Status
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B.A. SorrieFort Bragg, seepy streamhead ecotone, Sept 1993. CumberlandPhoto_natural
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