Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Bugbane - Trautvetteria caroliniensis   (Walter) Vail
Members of Ranunculaceae:
Only member of Trautvetteria in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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Author(Walter) Vail
DistributionThroughout the Mountains; found at only a few localized places in the Piedmont, and at one site in the lower Coastal Plain (Brunswick County fide Weakley).

This is primarily a central and southern Appalachian endemic, found from southwestern PA south to central GA and northern AL. There are disjunct sites well into the Piedmont or Coastal Plain.
AbundanceFairly common to common in the Mountains. Very rare and local in the Piedmont, mainly the western half -- east to Stokes, Alamance, Randolph, and Richmond counties. Disjunct records for Nash (lower Piedmont edge) and Brunswick (Coastal Plain) counties.
HabitatThis is a wetland species of shaded or mostly shaded places, in cool microclimates. It is normally found in forested seepages, along wooded stream margins, and in cove forests with some seepage. It can occur in bogs and grassy balds with some seepage, however. Farther east, it favors seepages and wet forests underlain by high pH soils -- quite rare habitats. The Brunswick County site, since destroyed, was at the forested edge of a calcareous savanna (Weakley 2018).
PhenologyBlooms from late May into August, and fruits shortly after blooming.
IdentificationThis is a rather tall herb, growing to 3-4 feet tall. It has very large basal leaves, quite a bit wider than long, on petioles several inches long. These leaves, up to 10-12 inches wide, are strongly divided into 5-11 palmate lobes, with serrated margins. The stem leaves are alternate but much smaller than the basal leaves, but still are deeply divided. The flowers at the end of the stalk are easily about 1 foot above most of the leaves, and they are small and in a flat-top cluster several inches wide. The petals are absent and the sepals drop early, so the bright white color is provided by the numerous stamens. The flat-topped white flower clusters raised well above large and strongly divided basal leaves should clinch the identification. A few other species can look somewhat like Trautvetteria, at least in leaf, though the leaves are much smaller; Boykinia aconitifolia is a bit similar but much smaller, with a different inflorescence. This is a showy species of moist montane forests that blooms after the main spring push of wildflower diversity is finished by early May; bright colors in such shaded forests from mid-May onward can often be limited, as the forest canopy has shaded the floor, and green is the dominant color at that time of year.
Taxonomic CommentsThere is controversy regarding the taxonomic status of some populations, which may be T. applanata Greene. See Weakley (2020) for discussion. We will wait for the dust to settle before creating a new species account.

Other Common Name(s)False Bugbane, Tassel-rue, Carolina Tassel-rue
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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