Prairie Phlox found in a ditch along a rural road in northeast Iowa.
Phlox pilosa (Prairie Phlox)
Plant Info Also known as: Downy Phlox
Family: Polemoniaceae (Phlox)
Life cycle: perennial
Habitat: sun to part shade; dry; prairies, open woods
Bloom season: spring to early summer
Plant height: 6 to 24 inches
Flower: 5-petals tubular round
Flowers are (usually) tightly packed in a round cluster to 3 inches across at the top of the plant. Individual flowers are pink to purple (rarely white), ½ to ¾ inch across, tubular with 5 spreading lobes and 5 yellow-tipped stamens hiding inside the tube. There is often a darker pink spot at the base of each lobe. The bracts surrounding the tube are purple-tinged, hairy and very narrow, spreading out with age. A plant may have more than 1 cluster, branching near the top of the plant.
Leaves and stem: opposite simple
Leaves are very narrow, to 3 inches long, 1/8 to ½ inch wide, toothless, rounded at the base and tapering to a long point at the tip, with no leaf stem. The texture is slighly rough from short hairs. Leaves are widely spaced on the stem and oppositely attached. The main stem is densely covered in white hairs.
Prairie Phlox tends to lean over, as if under too much weight from the flower cluster. When its seed is ripe the pods explode, ejecting the seed several feet out from the mother plant.