Friday Flower – Cleft Phlox

In a recent edition of my Friday Flower series I featured Tradescantia longipes (dwarf spiderwort or wild crocus), an exquisite Ozark endemic found scattered in dry igneous woodlands of the Missouri’s St. Francois Mountains and Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains and that I had seen this past April at Sam Baker State Park. Growing alongside these beautiful plants was this equally exquisite plant bearing strikingly cleft petals on its blossoms.  I recognized it clearly as some type of phlox, but not one that I recalled having seen before.  There is good reason for this, as a quick check of Steyermark (1963) revealed this to be Phlox bifida, which, though not a true Ozark endemic, is known from just a handful of Missouri counties where it grows typically in dry, rocky soils of upland woods, ravine slopes and bluff ledges.  Commonly called cleft phlox or sand phlox, the strongly cleft (bifid) petals distinguish it from other species in the genus and, not surprisingly, are the basis for its species name.  This is another plant that would seem to make a good choice for a native wildflower garden, as it can perform very well in cultivation.

Photo Details: Canon 50D (ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/18), Canon 100mm macro lens, Canon MT-24EX flash (diffused 1/4 power), typical post-processing (levels, unsharp mask).


Steyermark, J. A. 1963. Flora of Missouri. Iowa State University Press, Ames. 1728 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae

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5 thoughts on “Friday Flower – Cleft Phlox

  1. That’s a neat little flower that would be right at home in my barrens. There are no records of Phlox bifida in Ohio, but it is found in the cedar glades of Kentucky. I’m puzzled by rare native plants that do so well under cultivation. I think something that’s so easy to grow should be more successful in its natural habitat.

    • Good point. I’ve always thought the glade/woodland specialists were such because they were able to tolerate extreme conditions by reducing growth, modifications to limit water loss, etc. – adaptations that would put them at a disadvantage in more optimal conditions. It just shows how much we still have to learn about the system as a whole.

  2. Pingback: Berry Go Round #31 | A Blog Around The Clock


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