Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Vanilla-leaf - Trilisa odoratissima   (J.F. Gmelin) Cassini
Members of Asteraceae:
Members of Trilisa with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Asteraceae
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Author(J.F. Gmelin) Cassini
DistributionSouthern Coastal Plain only, north to Wayne and Craven counties. Not ranging west to the Sandhills; oddly, no specimens known yet from Brunswick and Columbus counties.

Coastal Plain, NC to central FL and southeastern LA.
AbundanceLocally common in well-managed (with fire) Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) stands, though generally uncommon over most of its range, more scarce inland away from coastal counties. Some sites have hundreds to thousands of plants. The editors suggest a State Rank of S3, instead of S2S3.
HabitatMoist Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass savannas and flatwoods. Responds very well to fire, if not a requisite for long-term survival.
See also Habitat Account for Loamy, Fire-maintained Herblands
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting late July-October.
IdentificationAt a distance Vanilla-leaf appears to consist only of a rosette of basal leaves and a tall, leafless flowering stem. In fact, the stems have a number of small ovate to elliptical leaves. Basal leaves are much larger (5-13 inches), oblanceolate-shape, are shiny dark green above, and have a whitish midrib. The smooth stems typically reach 3-5.5 feet tall and are reddish brown. The inflorescence has many strongly ascending branches, terminated with clusters of pink to purplish heads, in a somewhat flat-topped array. The plant gives off a pleasant odor when drying. This is a spectacular plant in full bloom, and a stand of them in flower attracts a large number of insects, such as butterflies and bees.
Taxonomic CommentsIn some texts, treated as Carphephorus odoratissimus.

Other Common Name(s)Deer's-tongue, Vanilla Plant, Pineland Purple
State RankS2S3 [S3]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorrieSame data, basal rosette. OnslowPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSame data, midstem leaves. OnslowPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieCamp Lejeune, moist flatwoods, Sept 2016. OnslowPhoto_natural

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