Small Bluet (Tiny Bluet; Star Violet)

Houstonia pusilla (H. minima; Hedyotis crassifolia)
Family: 
Rubiaceae (madders)
Description: 

Mat-forming winter annual, a tiny courier of spring. Flowers about ¼ inch wide, at the top of a slender stem that usually branches only once, near the middle; subtended by minute bracts; 4 petals, purple-blue to deep violet or white with a reddish-purple center and a yellow throat; always pointed skyward. Blooms March-April. Basal leaves to ⅜ inch long, with a few opposite. Stem leaves opposite, smaller (less than ½ inch long), linear, sessile.

Similar species: There are 7 species of bluets recorded for Missouri. Big bluet (azure bluet, innocence, Quaker ladies) (Houstonia caerula), is perennial, has larger (½ inch wide), light or sky-blue flowers with a yellow center, stalks that branch at the base, and spatula-shaped basal leaves in a rosette. It grows to 8 inches tall and blooms April-May; found in acid soils of sandstone or granite, wet meadows, sandy open woods, and glades in eastern Ozarks.

Size: 
Height: usually 3-4 inches (to 6 inches).
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in fields, pastures, glades, floodplains, bluffs, roadsides, and a variety of open or disturbed places, including lawns and cemeteries. Sometimes it colors entire lawns blue in early spring.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Central and southern Missouri.
Human connections: 
This plant is an example of the confusion caused by the use of common names: Some 25 different names are on record for the same bluet. Meanwhile, as botanists have learned more about the relationships among species in the madder family, bluets have been given different scientific names, too.
Ecosystem connections: 
Bees and other small insects visit the flowers, and it is likely that several insects and herbivorous mammals such as rabbits and mice nibble the leaves. Plants that quickly colonize disturbed, bare ground help to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/18209