Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Beaked Cornsalad - Valerianella radiata   (L.) Dufresne
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Section 6 » Order Dipsacales » Family Valerianaceae
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Author(L.) Dufresne
DistributionPresent throughout the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, but scattered in the middle and southern Mountains; likely absent in the northern Mountains.

This is a widespread species of the South and Mid-South, ranging north mainly from VA and KS and south to northern FL and central TX.
AbundanceCommon across nearly all of the Coastal Plain and most of the Piedmont, though not numerous in some northern portions, and uncommon in the Sandhills proper. Uncommon to infrequent in the southern half of the Mountains. This is clearly an S5 State Rank species, not just S4 as ranked by the NCNHP.
HabitatThis is a ruderal species, of roadsides, fields, powerline clearings, and other open country in mostly disturbed habitats. Its shows some preference for damp ground as opposed to overly dry or sandy soil.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a familiar native "weed" that grows to about 1' tall. It has several pairs of opposite leaves, with the lower leaves oblanceolate and tapering to the base, and upper leaves mostly oblong with rounded tips and somewhat clasping bases; each is about 2-3" long and less than 1" wide. Whatever the leaves look like, it is the odd flower cluster that draws attention to the genus. At the ends of several dichotomously forked branches are the small flower clusters, each one compact and shaped like a rectangle when viewed from above, about 3/4" by 1/2" across. This species has small white flowers, generally about 4-8 comprising each rectangular cluster. The entire inflorescence is flat-topped as well, with a spread of about 3-5" across. The quite similar, and also native, V. umbilicata, of the mountains and part of the Piedmont, has its flowers larger, with the tube about 3-5 mm long (as opposed to just 1.5-2 mm) in this species, and with the spread corolla lobes in that species 1-2 mm long versus 0.4-0.8 mm long. Though these seem small differences, in the field the flowers and cluster do indeed look larger (and more rounded when viewed from above), as long as you are quite familiar with the common V. radiata first. The other NC species in the genus is V. locusta, but it is not a native and its flowers are light blue.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Weakley (2020) places Valerianella and Valeriana into family Valerianaceae, but without taxonomnic justification. The papers he cites are a mixed bag without concensus. We will await further developments.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
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