Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Phlox - Phlox carolina   L.
Members of Polemoniaceae:
Members of Phlox with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Solanales » Family Polemoniaceae
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DistributionPresent throughout the southern half of the Mountains; scattered over most of the Piedmont and the northern Mountains, with many holes in the range map (but likely not real); a few disjunct eastern Coastal Plain records.

This is a Southern species with an odd range. It ranges north to central VA and southern MO, and south to western FL and eastern TX. However, though it occurs over nearly all of SC, it is quite scarce northward in the Coastal Plain.
AbundanceCommon in the southern Mountains. Uncommon to infrequent in much of the Piedmont and the northern Mountains, but very rare in the northeastern portion of the Piedmont. Extremely rare in the eastern Coastal Plain. This is the most often seen Phlox in the southern Mountains.
HabitatThis species has a varied habitat selection, without any being prevalent. It grows in mesic to somewhat rich places, in open to medium-growth forests, wooded borders, roadbanks, and other similar places, mostly in partial sun. Thankfully, it has little to no affinity for damp or wet ground; some of its closest relatives are mostly found in wetlands, though this is not always a safe identification character.
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a standard Phlox, often the one to which other less numerous species are compared with. It has an erect stem growing to 2-3 feet tall, generally glabrous. It has 6-15 nodes, of opposite leaves, beneath the inflorescence. Each leaf is somewhat lanceolate, but can vary to nearly ovate to somewhat linear, and the largest are in the middle of the stem. The average leaf is 3-4 inches long and about 3/4-inch wide, with entire margins. In this species, the flower cluster -- a somewhat corymbose (most flowers emerging from the same place) one -- is rounded, about like a baseball in size, about as tall as wide, to about 1.5 times taller than wide. The numerous rose-colored flowers in the cluster are standard for the genus, with a long tube and 5 flaring lobes, the flower nearly 1-inch long and about 4/5-inch wide. There are calyx details that may help separate the species from others; in P. carolina the calyx, including the lobes, is 9-12 mm long, versus 5-8 mm in P. glaberrima. Also, in P. carolina the calyx is subcylindric (tubular), the membranes weak, and the sepals are fairly broad and with a rather weak midrib; versus calyx subcampanulate (rather rounded to cup-like), the membranes firm, and the sepals narrow with a well-developed midrib in P. glaberrima. Generally, the inflorescence of P. glaberrima is flattened and always notably wider than tall, whereas P. carolina has a rounded cluster. P. maculata has a tall but narrow inflorescence, quite cylindrical in shape, and it has distinctly red-spotted stems.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Thickleaf Phlox, Summer Phlox
State RankS4
Global RankG5?
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B.A. SorrieNorthern GA, 6 July 2015. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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