American gromwell

(Lithospermum latifolium)

Conservation Status
American gromwell
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N4 - Apparently Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


American gromwell is a spring woodland wildflower. It occurs in the United States from New York to Minnesota, south to Virginia and Kansas, and in southern Ontario Canada. It is uncommon throughout its range, including in Minnesota. It mat be often overlooked due to the small size of its flowers and its similarity in appearance to other much more common plants. It is found in upland, moderately moist forests, woodlands, and thickets, usually on north-facing slopes; and on roadsides. It grows in rich, loamy soil under dappled sunlight in the spring, medium shade in the summer. Its presence is an indicator of a high quality woodland.

American gromwell is an erect, perennial forb that rises on one or a few stems from a stout, somewhat woody taproot. It can be 16 to 40 tall, but in Minnesota it is usually no more than 30 in height.

The stems are erect and may be unbranched or have a few branches. They are moderately to densely covered with white, stiff, appressed, upwardly curved hairs.

The leaves are alternate, ¾ to 5½ (2 to 14 cm) long, and 516 to 2 (8 to 60 mm) wide. They are stalkless or on very short leaf stalks. The leaf blades are lance shaped to narrowly egg-shaped, angled or tapered at the base, and tapered to a sharp point at the tip. There are 3 or 5 lateral veins that arch strongly toward the leaf tip. They are conspicuously sunken on the upper surface and raised on the lower surface. The upper surface is dark green and rough to the touch. It is moderately covered with minute stiff hairs, and sparsely covered with longer spreading hairs. The lower surface is grayish-green and is moderately to densely covered with short, soft, fine hairs. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is a solitary flower on a short stalk in each of the upper leaf axils. Self-pollinating, closed, bud-like (cleistogamous) flowers are not produced.

The flowers are 316 to 516 (5 to 8 mm) long and about ¼ wide. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 5 petals, 5 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals (together the calyx) are green and are fused just at the base then separated for most of their length into 5 hairy, linear lance-shaped, 316 to 516 (5 to 8 mm) long lobes. The petals (together the corolla) are pale yellow to greenish-white. They are fused at the base into a narrow, to ¼ (4 to 6 mm) long floral tube, then separated into 5 widely spreading, 132 to 116 (1 to 1.5 mm) long lobes. The corolla tube is no longer than the lobes of the calyx. The corolla lobes are not fringed. The stamens are inserted near the middle of the corolla tube. The style is 132 to 116 (1 to 2 mm) long.

The fruit is a shiny, white, hard, egg-shaped, to 3 16 (3.5 to 5 mm) long nutlet. It has a blunt ridge (keel) on the bottom. It may be smooth or have shallow scattered pits, mostly toward the base and along the keel. Each nutlet contains 1 seed. The calyx lobes persist and become 3 16 to ½ (5 to 8 mm) long and erect in fruit.




16 to 30


Flower Color


Pale yellow to greenish-white


Similar Species


Dry to moist. Upland, moderately moist forests, woodlands, and thickets, usually on north-facing slopes; roadsides. Dappled sunlight in the spring, medium shade in the summer. Rich, loamy soil.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Boraginales (borages)  


Boraginaceae (borage)  
  Subfamily Boraginoideae  
  Tribe Lithospermeae  


Lithospermum (stoneseeds, puccoons, and gromwells)  

Subordinate Taxa








Common Names


American gromwell

American stoneseed

broad-leaved gromwell










The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.



The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube. Plural: calyces.



Automatically self-pollinating. Refers to bud-like flowers that do not open but automatically self-pollinate, or to plants with such flowers.



A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

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Location: Owatonna, MN

Found this plant yesterday growing on the trail near Mineral Springs Pk., Owatonna.

American gromwell





Created: 10/17/2020

Last Updated:

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