Hoary Puccoon (Orange Puccoon)

Photo of hoary puccoon closeup of flower cluster
Scientific Name
Lithospermum canescens
Boraginaceae (borages)

Hoary puccoon's small, bright orange flowers arise on spirally condensed stalks that uncoil and elongate as more flowers open toward the tip. Many stalks arise from one root system; this plant begins flowering very low to the ground. Flowers are many, from coiled flowering stalks; each flower is tubular, though this is hardly visible, with 5 lobes, orange yellow, rarely pale yellow. Blooms March–June. Leaves are inconspicuous at flowering time, alternate, lanceolate, pointing upward, very hairy. The fruits are small nutlets that are shiny white to yellowish brown.

There are four species of Lithospermum in our state, three of which are called "puccoons." Yellow puccoon (L. incisum) has flowers lemon yellow or bright yellow, with the lobes toothed, fringed, or wrinkled. Plains puccoon (L. carolinense) is similar to hoary puccoon, but its foliage is rough-hairy with stiff hairs (not softly hairy) and has longer flowers.

Height: 6–12 inches.
Where To Find
image of Hoary Puccoon Orange Puccoon distribution map
Statewide, except for the lowlands of southeast Missouri.
Occurs in glades, savannas, upland and loess hill prairies, ledges and tops of bluffs, openings of moist upland forests, dry upland forests, and sometimes along edges of lakes. Also found in pastures, along railroads and roadsides, and in open, disturbed areas. It can be a showy specimen for native plant gardens.

There is poetry in many wildflower names. "Hoary" means gray or white with age, and this plant certainly does have such hairy foliage. "Puccoon" is from the Powhatan/Virginia Algonquian word "poughkone" and refers to plants that yield a purple, red, or yellow dye.

Considering that "puccoon" pretty much means "plant for making dye," there are many different kinds of wildflowers and herbs commonly called "puccoon" that have little relationship to one another. For example, bloodroot, in a completely different family, has been called "Canadian puccoon" in some regions. The only similarity is that both plants at some point yielded dye.

Bees and butterflies harvest nectar from these showy flowers, pollinating them in the process. Some types of puccoons, however, bear two types of flowers, with some flowers cross-pollinating with the aid of insects, and others completely self-pollinating.
Media Gallery
Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!