Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Galax - Galax urceolata   (Poiret) Brummitt
Members of Diapensiaceae:
Only member of Galax in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Diapensiales » Family Diapensiaceae
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Author(Poiret) Brummitt
DistributionThroughout all of the Mountains and western Piedmont, in all counties; scattered across the central and eastern Piedmont and the northwestern two-thirds of the Coastal Plain. Absent from a few counties in the southern Coastal Plain (near the SC border) as well as a number of counties in the northern Coastal Plain (east of Hertford and Beaufort counties).

This is a roughly “Southern Appalachian” endemic, though it ranges well into the Piedmont and Coastal Plain to the east of the mountains. Ranges north to WV and central VA south to central GA and southeastern AL, and then west mainly to eastern TN. It surprisingly is almost absent from the Cumberlands and other “foothills” west of the main Appalachian Mountains, yet it ranges well south into AL.
AbundanceCommon to abundant in the Mountains and foothills, though poaching has impacted the species in some areas. Quite local and mainly infrequent in the central and eastern Piedmont. Rare to uncommon and local in the Coastal Plain, mainly in the northern and central portions.
HabitatThis species is widespread in montane forests, especially on slopes of Acidic Cove Forests and dry forests, particularly where rocky. Farther eastward, it occurs mainly on north-facing slopes and bluffs, in cool microclimates. In most parts of the state, it occurs under or near stands of various evergreen rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a familiar evergreen herb or shrub, typically called a sub-shrub due to its woody stem. Each plant has several large rounded, dark-green leaves that are serrated and have a heart-shaped base; leaves average 2-2.5 inches across. The species is rhizomatous and thus occurs in dense stands, often to the exclusion of other species. Though there can be some confusion with the rare and local Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia), the latter species has thicker and glossier leaves that are somewhat rectangular (but with rounded edges) and not circular in shape. The inflorescence of Galax easily separates it from other species, as the flowers occur at the top of a slender and naked, foot-tall stalk; the small white flowers form a narrow raceme at the top 40% of the stalk. In fall and winter, the leaves turn a coppery color.
Taxonomic CommentsFormerly named as Galax aphylla, but universally known now as G. urceolata. The species is monotypic – the only species in its genus.

Other Common Name(s)Beetleweed, Wandflower
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieSame data. BurkePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieBelow Table Rock, 1 July 2020. BurkePhoto_natural
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