Hairy puccoon

Lithospermum caroliniense                       

Common Name: Hairy puccoon; Plains puccoon; Yellow puccoon

  • Much-branched, herbaceous plant that grows 12-24 inches tall.
  • Bright yellow flowers grow on hairy stems.
  • Held in place in shifting sands by a sturdy taproot.
  • Flowers from May to July.

Native or Invasive: Native perennial

Characteristics: Hairy puccoon features bright yellow flowers on hairy stems, growing in clumps on sand. At flowering time, the plant is typically from 12-24 inches tall, with a crowded leafy stem. The stems and leaves contain stiff hairs with small, blister-like swellings at the base of each. It is often clustered, with a few to a dozen straight up stems in each bunch.

The bright orange-yellow flowers with five petals are conspicuous and can be easily be seen by people and pollinators. The rock-hard, smooth, tiny seeds can be found even in the winter, lying partially buried or scattered on the surface of the sand beneath the plant. Hairy puccoon grows in coastal areas, often accompanied by horizontal juniper.

Habitat: Dunes and sandy areas of beaches.

Fun Fact: Although there are six species of puccoon in the area, only one other is common enough to cause any confusion. Hoary puccoon has smaller flowers that are orange or golden yellow and can be found in sandy prairies, adjacent to wooded areas, along roadsides and railroads.

Ethnobotanical Uses: An intense reddish-purple dye is made from the pigment in the sap, especially from the deep taproot. It was once used for face paint for ceremonial use. The powdered roots were used to cure chest wounds.

Adapted from Guide to Great Lakes Coastal Plants, by Ellen Elliott Weatherbee, University of Michigan Press.