Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Spring-beauty - Claytonia virginica   L.
Members of Montiaceae:
Members of Claytonia with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Caryophyllales » Family Montiaceae
DistributionThroughout the eastern and central 60% of the Piedmont, and parts of the western Coastal Plain, where only in brownwater river floodplains. Present over nearly all of the Mountains. Bizarre absences from the western Piedmont and the far southwestern Mountains, certainly real areas of scarcity and not due to scarcity of collecting efforts.

This is a very widespread species, from eastern Canada south to AL and central TX. It is absent from FL, most of the southern Coastal Plains, and a strange scarcity to absence in the western Piedmont of NC.
AbundanceCommon in the eastern 60% of the Piedmont and locally along a few brownwater floodplains into the Coastal Plain (Roanoke and Cape Fear). Fairly common in much of the Mountains, but mainly at lower elevations; very rare in the western Piedmont and far southwestern Mountains, for no obvious reason.
HabitatThis is a species of moist to rich forests. It is often found in bottomland hardwood forests, natural levee forests, and rich slopes of hardwood or mixed forests. In the Mountains it is usually found below 3500 feet in elevation.
PhenologyBlooms from February to April, and fruits shortly after flowering. The plants wither by late April to early May and are not visible above ground after fruiting. Note that RAB (1968) gives March and April as the flowering period; however, global warming has hit NC such that most flowers, butterflies, and other species that time appearances to the spring season have advanced their appearances a few weeks earlier in the last several decades.
IdentificationThis is a familiar spring ephemeral wildflower of the state's lower elevations, essentially below 3500 feet. It has a single stem, generally erect to leaning, but only about 6-8 inches tall, with only a few stem leaves. These are linear, about 3 inches long, opposite, but without a distinct petiole. In this species, the blade is narrow enough that the petiole is not clearly noticeable; in C. caroliniana, the leaves are lanceolate to elliptical, and the petiole is quite distinct from the leaf blade. Both species have a short raceme at the end of the stem, of 6-20 flowers, only a few in bloom at a time; each has white to light pink petals, with pink veins, that are elliptical and spreading, and the open flower is about 1-inch across, reasonably large for the small size of the plant. Both species grow in dense patches, and many a rich forest floor has one of these two species carpeting parts of the ground. However, for some odd reason, most of the western Piedmont is devoid of both of these species -- not for lack of trying to find them.
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2018) lists varieties, and the nominate one is present in the state.

Other Common Name(s)Spring-beauty
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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