Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Moss Phlox - Phlox subulata   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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DistributionScattered in the middle and higher elevations of the Mountains, ranging southwest to Macon County, and perhaps absent farther to the southwest. There are a number of SERNEC collection records from the Piedmont, but the website editors are not bothering to map these presumed plantings and escapes, even as "non-natural" occurrences. Montane records at SERNEC from Alleghany, Haywood, Surry, Swain, and Transylvania counties are all escapes from cultivation (Sorrie pers comm 2023).

This is a Northern species, with numerous out-of-range plantings that disrupt the BONAP map. It ranges naturally from eastern Canada south to NJ and PA, and then south through the Appalachians to western NC and TN.
AbundanceRare, and somewhat local, in the Mountains. This is a Significantly Rare species. Though the NCNHP database contains 11 records, several are historical, and a few more are simply "extant", with no information on current condition. Thus, with only about 4 records with recent information about their condition, the S1 State Rank is warranted (despite 6 county records).
HabitatIn the state, it is found mainly on or around the margins of exposed rock outcrops, bluffs, cliffs, and rocky openings in upland woods.
PhenologyBlooms mostly in April, and fruits mainly in April and May.
IdentificationThis is somewhat the montane counterpart to P. nivalis of lower elevations, it being a decumbent and stoloniferous species, with a slightly woody (suffruticose) stem along the ground. At several nodes along this ground stem, but more so on the somewhat erect flowering shoots, there are numerous whorls of subulate, needle-like leaves, each one about 1/3-inch long with sharp tips. Each of these stalks grows to about 6 inches tall, with a small flower cluster at the top, of a few pink flowers. These flowers differ a bit from other Phlox species, in that they are pink or rose-pink but smaller with the tube only about 1/2-inch long and the 5 spreading lobes only about 2/3-inch across. Each lobe is square at the tip, and on some plants they may be notched (concave) in the middle of the apex. However, you should not have trouble identifying it, at least when in bloom, as there are very few "mat-forming" species with needle-like leaves and short flowering stalks with decent-sized pink flowers, on rocky ridges and cliffs.
Taxonomic CommentsThough there are often subspecies named for the species, Weakley (2018) chooses not to include them in his flora.

Other Common Name(s)Mountain-pink
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusSR-P
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieBluff Mountain ledge, 1994. AshePhoto_natural
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