Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Meadow Phlox - Phlox maculata   L.
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Section 6 » Order Solanales » Family Polemoniaceae
AuthorL.
DistributionPresent over most or all of the mountains, but only scattered in the northern and central Piedmont, and very rarely to the Coastal Plain. Absent over most of the Coastal Plain and the southern Piedmont.

This is a somewhat Northern species, ranging from eastern Canada south to NC and central AL.
AbundanceFairly common, at least locally, in the mountains; rare in the northern and central Piedmont, and might be absent from the southern third. Extremely rare in the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is essentially a wetland species, favoring wet meadows, low woods and openings, along stream margins, and other damp places, usually in partial shade.
PhenologyBlooms from June to September, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a familiar Phlox species in states farther north or west, and generally somewhat familiar to mountain biologists. It has an erect stem, growing to about 2-2.5' tall, but this species has a considerable amount of red spots along the stem, many more so than in other species -- hence the name "maculata" (spotted). There are a large number of pairs of opposite leaves (18-35), more than in most other species except P. paniculata. The leaves are lanceolate to linear lanceolate, the larger ones toward the bottom of the stem being 3-4" long and much narrower; the leaves decrease in size up the stem. The inflorescence is mainly terminal on the stem, consisting of a number of cymes of flowers to produce a tall, columnar or cylindrical cluster, often about 6" tall or more and about 2-3" wide (hence about 2-3 times taller than wide). The rose-pink flowers tend to have longer tubes than on other species, but the flowers are about 1" across at the face. Normally, the cylindrical inflorescence shape and the large amount of red spots on the stem should be sufficient for separation from the numerous other montane species in its range.
Taxonomic CommentsMost references attribute sub-taxa to this species, and Weakely (2018) lists two subspecies. The nominate one -- var. maculata -- is primarily limited to the mountains, whereas the other -- var. pyramidalis -- is more widespread across the state.

Other Common Name(s)Wild Sweet William, Speckled Phlox. Many references use "Wild Sweet William", but that is idiosyncratic and more often the type of name given to a species common in the horticulture/garden trade.
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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