Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Pennywort - Obolaria virginica   L.
Members of Gentianaceae:
Only member of Obolaria in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Gentianales » Family Gentianaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Mountains and Piedmont; widely scattered in the upper/western Coastal Plain, being absent from most of the central and eastern portions and from the Sandhills proper.

This is an Eastern species, present from NJ and southeastern MO south to northern FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceFrequent in the Mountains, and fairly common in the Piedmont, but quite small and easily overlooked. Rare in the upper Coastal Plain, and very rare in the eastern portion (Craven and Jones counties). The NCNHP's State Rank of S4 is conservative, and as it is probably present in all Mountain and Piedmont counties, it certainly is an S5 species.
HabitatThis is a forest species, found mainly in rich to mesic hardwood to mixed forests. It usually in found in leafy places, and can be almost hidden under fallen leaves.
PhenologyBlooms from early March to late April, and fruits from May to June.
IdentificationThis is a very small species, unlike any others in the state. It has a short stem only reaching 3-6 inches tall, though at least the stem is fleshy and somewhat thick. It has only a few scale-like leaves on this stubby stem, except that the upper 2 inches of the stem contain bract-like leaves that are obovate and about 1/3-inch long, with a purplish tint. In the axils of these leaves grow the flowers, each being a white to very pale pinkish-white tube with 4 moderately flaring lobes, the entire flower only about 1/2-inch long. There are usually about 10-15 such flowers at the top of a plant, producing a moderately dense and leafy-looking flower cluster about 1-2 inches tall and 1-inch wide. Not only is a given plant small, the species does not grow in large colonies, usually just a few plants scattered over an acre of forest. Thankfully, the white "ball" of flowers should attract attention from a biologist walking through a hardwood forest in the earlier part of the spring season, when much of the forest floor is brown with dead leaves.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Pennywort
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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