Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fringed Bluestar - Amsonia ciliata   Walter
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Section 6 » Order Gentianales » Family Apocynaceae
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AuthorWalter
DistributionNearly throughout the Sandhills, though mysteriously not yet recorded from heavily surveyed Cumberland County, nor from adjacent Harnett County. Also ranges eastward into the adjacent central Coastal Plain, to Sampson and Bladen counties. Barely ranges (or ranged) into the extreme eastern edge of the Piedmont -- Anson County (current) and Wake County (historical).

This is a Southern species, with a two-part range. The eastern part occurs from southern NC south to southern FL and west to AL; the western grows from southern MO into central TX.
AbundanceInfrequent in the Sandhills, though reasonably widespread (except seemingly scarce or absent in the northeastern corner of the region). Rare to uncommon farther eastward. Extremely rare in the southeastern corner of the Piedmont.
HabitatThis species favors sandy soil of xeric pine/scrub oak sandhills. It also occurs on sand ridges, sandy clearings, and other dry (usually sandy) openings. It is not one of the scarce sandhill species of more mesic/loamy soil that needs frequent fire for its survival.
PhenologyBlooms mainly in April, and fruits do not ripen until September and October.
IdentificationThis is an herbaceous species with often multiple stems, growing to 1-2' tall; a stem may have a few short branches in the upper portions. The stem and leaves are quite hairy. This species has a very large number of alternate leaves, each being very narrow and ascending (or gently arcing away from the stem); they average about 2-3" long but only about 1/4" wide. No other sandhills plant really looks like this one, with its many needle-like and ascending leaves, but in bloom it is quite striking. The flowers grow in a terminal cluster (at the end of the stem or branch) a few inches across. Each flower is pale (Carolina) blue, star-shaped, and about 3/4" across, with a slender pale blue tube at the base of the flower. Though a single plant in bloom is quite showy, thankfully the species usually grows in small and dense patches, and thus such a patch can be seen by an observer for many hundreds of yards across its dry sandhills habitats. In fall, the paired fruits are erect, very long and slender, growing about 5-6" long. This species had long been on the NCNHP Watch List, but enough recent records had been made to remove it from that list. It is certainly not seen on every walk in the sandhills, and it may take a handful of walks to find it, but a biologist working that region should see it from time to time in a given year.
Taxonomic CommentsNo changes to its scientific name, but there has been some question about the taxonomy of the more western populations.

Other Common Name(s)Sandhill/Sandhills Bluestar
State RankS3
Global RankG5?
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