Field Guide

Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants

Showing 1 - 10 of 10 results
Media
Photo of buffalo bur flower and leaves.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Solanum rostratum
Description
A spiny annual with bright yellow flowers and dandelion-like leaves, buffalo bur is an introduced member of the nightshade family.
Media
Photo of a bull thistle flowerhead.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cirsium vulgare
Description
Bull thistle is a weedy introduction from Europe, found statewide. To tell it from our other thistles, note its stems with spiny-margined wings, and its leaves with the upper surface strongly roughened with stiff, spiny bristles.
Media
Photo of Canada thistle flowers
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cirsium arvense
Description
Canada thistle is a native to Eurasia and arrived on our continent probably before the Revolutionary War — most likely mixed in agricultural seed. A bad weed of crop fields and rangeland farther north, it causes problems in Missouri, too.
Media
Species Types
Scientific Name
Xanthium strumarium
Description
Common cocklebur occurs statewide in open, disturbed, lowland habitats. It is a common weed in crop fields. It has wide, rough, coarsely toothed leaves; stout, often purple-speckled stems; and characteristic burs with hooked spines.
Media
Photo of common jimsonweed flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Datura stramonium
Description
Pretty but poisonous, jimsonweed has white goblet-shaped flowers that open around midnight. This native of tropical America was introduced nearly throughout the United States and thrives in disturbed soils.
Media
Photo of eastern prickly pear plant with flowers
Species Types
Scientific Name
Opuntia humifusa (formerly O. compressa)
Description
Cacti make us think of the desert southwest, but there is at least one species native to Missouri. This prickly pear grows in glades, sand prairies, rocky open hillsides, and other dry, sun-soaked areas.
Media
Photo of horse nettle flowers and leaves
Species Types
Scientific Name
Solanum carolinense
Description
Horse nettle is a native perennial with spiny stems and leaves, white to purplish flowers, and toxic fruits that look like tiny yellow tomatoes. It does well in disturbed habitats, and many people consider it a weed.
Media
Photo of a musk thistle blooming flower head.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Carduus nutans
Description
An invasive native of Eurasia that is spreading in Missouri, musk thistle is a plant you should know. Learn how to tell the difference between our native thistles and these bad guys.
Media
Photo of rattlesnake master flower heads side view
Species Types
Scientific Name
Eryngium yuccifolium
Description
“It’s an odd plant,” this rattlesnake master, “with its leaves like yucca, a head like a thistle, and second cousin to the carrot.” That’s how the great prairie writer John Madson summed it up!
Media
Photo of tall thistle plants with flowers
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cirsium altissimum
Description
Tall thistle is a native thistle that can grow to be 10 feet tall! To identify it, notice its leaves, which are unlobed (though they may be wavy or have only shallow, broad lobes), are felty-hairy beneath, and have prickles only along the edges.
See Also

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!