Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Buckbean - Menyanthes trifoliata   L.
Members of Menyanthaceae:
Only member of Menyanthes in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Solanales » Family Menyanthaceae
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DistributionStrictly in the northern Mountains, known for many decades from Watauga County and only recently collected in Alleghany County. The first NC record was in 1984.

This is a Northern species, found across Canada and the Northern states south to NY and IA, and down the Appalachians to northwestern NC. Not yet known for KY or TN.
AbundanceVery rare, known from just four sites in the state, three in close proximity in northern Watauga County. This is a State Threatened species.
HabitatThis species has highly specific habitats in NC -- growing only in fens and bogs, preferably over mafic rocks such as amphibolite.
PhenologyBlooms from April to June, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a most unusual species, not looking like any others in its range, and is the only member of its genus. It is a wetland species, with a separate and erect flowering stalk growing to about 8 inches tall, and the several basal leaves growing to about 6 inches tall. Each leaf has a long and thick petiole, about 3-5 inches long, and the leaf blade is trifoliate, with the each of the 3 leaflets oblanceolate to ovate, rounded at the tip, entire, and about 2 inches long -- looking a bit like a huge clover leaf. The top third of the flowering stalk contains a dense raceme of medium-sized yet unusual flowers. Each flower is white to creamy-white, somewhat bell-shaped, with 5 lobes, each flaring and with fuzzy beards (long white hairs) on them, and the spread flower about 1/2-inch across. Note that the plants often grow in shallow standing water, thus a reason for fleshy and thick stem and petioles. The leaves by themselves will easily identify this species, but if you are lucky enough to see the fuzzy, white flowers, any doubt about the identity will be erased. Sadly, you are not likely to encounter the species in NC and will likely have to see it farther north.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Bogbean, Marsh Trefoil
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusT
US Status
USACE-agcpOBL link
USACE-empOBL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken at Scenic SP, Minnesota. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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