Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Fly-poison - Amianthium muscitoxicum   (Walter) A. Gray
Members of Melanthiaceae:
Only member of Amianthium in NC.
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Melanthiaceae
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Author(Walter) A. Gray
DistributionEssentially statewide, but possibly absent in the far northeastern Coastal Plain and from the Sandhills proper. No known records from most of the counties bordering Albemarle Sound, other than Tyrrell County.

It has a fairly wide range over the southeastern quarter of the country. It ranges north to Long Island, NY, and MO, and south to northern FL, eastern LA, and eastern OK. It is not known from Great Lakes states such as OH, IN, or IL, nor from TX.
AbundanceFairly common to frequent across the Mountains and Piedmont; infrequent to fairly common over most of the Coastal Plain, but rare in the northeastern quarter of the Coastal Plain (and locally absent, such as the Sandhills).
HabitatIn most of the state, especially in the Mountains and Piedmont, it favors mesic hardwood forests, often on slopes. It does occur in many other shaded places, such as bottomland forests, as well as on drier slopes, but not generally in sandy or xeric soils. In the Coastal Plain, it can occur in savannas, where it must carefully be separated from the similar Stenanthium densum. Rarely it occurs in meadows and other sunny places.
PhenologyBlooms from May into July, and fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThis is one of several species that grow in forests that contain a cluster of fairly long, strap-shaped basal, monocot leaves (i.e., parallel-veined leaves). As some grass species can also show such leaves, one must usually wait until a flowering or fruiting stalk is visible to be sure of the identification. This "lily" has such narrow basal leaves that can extend to at least 1 foot long, though not more than 1 inch wide. Leaves are pleated lengthwise, vs. not pleated in Stenanthium gramineum. The wand-like flowering stalk is typically 1-1.5 feet tall, and it contains a dense cone-shaped inflorescence of small white flowers at the top few inches. Each flower is about 1/3-inch across, and the cluster is usually about 1.5 inches wide. After blooming, the flowers turn light green, a distinguishing character from that of Stenanthium densum, whose flowers turn pink after blooming. This latter species usually has just 1-3 basal leaves, whereas Amianthium has 4 or more basal leaves. Stenanthium does not grow west of the Coastal Plain nor inside forests, but in the Coastal Plain savannas you may need to be careful with the identification. Though it blooms after the main push of the spring ephemeral wildflowers on a forest walk in April or early May, one can often see the basal leaves at that time. It isn't until the forest canopy closes in when this species comes into full bloom, at a time when relatively few other noteworthy wildflowers are in bloom on the forested slopes.
Taxonomic CommentsNote that the specific epithet has been changed in recent years from muscaetoxicum to muscitoxicum. Also, the species is in a monotypic genus; there are no other Amianthium species.

Other Common Name(s)Stagger Grass (rarely used)
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG4G5
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US Status
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USACE-empFAC link
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B.A. SorrieSame data. StanlyPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieMorrow Mountain SP, hardwood slope, May 2007. StanlyPhoto_natural
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