Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Combleaf Yellow False Foxglove - Aureolaria pectinata   (Nuttall) Pennell
Members of Orobanchaceae:
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Section 6 » Order Scrophulariales » Family Orobanchaceae
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Author(Nuttall) Pennell
DistributionFound over most of the southern 50-60% of the Mountains, the southern 40% of the Piedmont, and into the southwestern and southern Coastal Plain. A few scattered records in the northern Piedmont, but absent in the northeastern Piedmont -- as well as most of the eastern and central Coastal Plain. The species is easily confused with the similar A. pedicularia, and some specimens of these two are probably misidentified. Some references even combine these two.

This is a Southern species that ranges north to northwestern NC, KY, and MO, south to southern FL and eastern TX. It is not known from VA.
AbundanceAbundant in the Sandhills region, but only fairly common eastward to about Wayne County, and scarce to Brunswick County. Infrequent to fairly common in the southern Mountains and southern Piedmont, but very rare in the northwestern Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a species of xeric sandy soil of pine/oak sandhills. It also occurs in other types of dry and unsually sandy soil, but unlike the three wand-like speices in the genus (A. flava, A. levigata, and A. virginica), this species and A. pedicularia are not plants of forest interiors, or at least of deep shade. Thus, it is often found along dry wooded borders and openings in dry, sandy woods. It is a root parasite on oaks.
PhenologyBlooms in late spring into summer, from May into September, and fruits from September to October. The closely related A. pedicularia in a fall bloomer, from September into October.
IdentificationThis species and A. pedicularia are the two bushy species of the genus, and overall very similar at any distance. This species grows almost shrub-like, with many widely spreading branches, to about 2.5-3 feet tall and wide, with numerous opposite leaves. The stem and branches are very glandular, sticky to the touch, as are the leaves. Each leaf is triangular in shape, about 1.5-2 inches long, pinnately divided to look quite fern-like. At the ends of the branches grow short racemes of large bright yellow flowers, each from a leaf axil; the flower is similar to others in the genus, being bell-shaped and close to 1.4 inches long and nearly as wide. In addition to the different blooming periods -- this species will be finished blooming usually a month or two before A. pedicularia in the same area; several other key differences are that A. pectinata has glandular leaves, at least in part (squeeze a leaf to see if it is sticky), whereas the other has hairs without glands (and should not feel sticky when squeezed between two fingers), and the lobes of the leaf in this species are acute/sharp as opposed to usually obtuse/rounded in the other. Lastly, perhaps owing to the more pointed leaves and lobes, this species appears a bit "spikier" and less rounded in overall shape than does the other. This should be a readily seen species in the Sandhills region, and somewhat less often seen farther west to the TN border.
Taxonomic CommentsAs mentioned above, these two species have at times been included within one species, normally this one being named as A. pedicularia var. pectinata. Owing to the starkly different blooming periods, these two are clearly different and good species!

Other Common Name(s)Fernleaf Yellow False Foxglove, Southern Oak-leech
State RankS3S4
Global RankG5?
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B.A. SorrieSGL, Richmond County, July 2009. ScotlandPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, xeric roadside and longleaf-wiregrass, July 2009. ScotlandPhoto_natural

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