Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia False Gromwell - Lithospermum virginianum   L.
Members of Boraginaceae:
Members of Lithospermum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Boraginaceae
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DistributionA three-part range in the state; found primarily (now) in the Sandhills region and eastern Piedmont, widely scattered records (and nearly all historical) elsewhere in the Coastal Plain, also present in the southwestern Piedmont, mainly in foothill ranges.

This is an Eastern and Southeastern species, ranging mainly in Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. It ranges from NY and MA south to central FL and west to LA. It is not known from TN, KY, or WV.
AbundanceThis species has declined considerably over the past 50-60 years. It is now essentially restricted to the Sandhills, where uncommon to infrequent, and the southwestern Piedmont, where rare to locally uncommon. It likely is still present in Brunswick County, but it no longer seems to be extant in the eastern Coastal Plain and northeastern Piedmont. This is a Watch List species.
HabitatThis species has several very different habitats. It the Coastal Plain it occurs in fairly typical pine/scrub oak sandhills vegetation, especially in mesic soil with high plant diversity (bean dips, pea swales, troughs). In the foothills it requires high pH soils in upland habitats, such as glades, open woods, and wooded margins over various mafic rocks. It also occurs on shell middens along the coast, but whether the Brunswick County site(s) is in this habitat is not known to the website editors. Weakley (2018) suggests that it seems to require a moderate amount of fire in its habitats; it disappears from long fire-suppressed sites.
PhenologyBlooms from April to September, and fruits from late May to October.
IdentificationThis is a medium-sized herb, with some short branches in the upper portions; it grows to about 1.5-2 feet tall. The alternate leaves are rather scattered, being oblanceolate to oblong, those on the lower stem being long-tapering to the base; they are about 3 inches long and 3/4-1-inch wide, and are usually hairy as is the stem. The leaves have characteristically parallel veins that are deeply sunken on the upper surface. At the upper part of the stem and branches grow long, curled flower clusters (helicoid cymes), often reaching 5-6 inches long. Although most references say the flowers are yellow to orange, those in NC tend to be pale greenish to very pale cream-yellow in color -- paler than the green leaves but hardly drawing attention. The flowers are tubular, about 2/5-1/2-inch long, with narrow and pointed corolla lobes. Often more attention-getting are the nutlets -- each is rounded and dull white, about 1/10-inch across -- reminding many of the seeds of Scleria [nutrush] species. The parallel-veined leaves and the long and curled flower clusters should suffice for identification.
Taxonomic CommentsMost references placed the species in the genus Onosmodium, but generally now have moved it to Lithospermum.

Other Common Name(s)False Gromwell, Virginia Marbleseed, Wild Job's-tears
State RankS3
Global RankG4
State StatusW1
US Status
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B.A. SorrieMoore County, 2021, Sandhills Game Land, Block Y, loamy sand trough. MoorePhoto_natural
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