Virginia stickseed

(Hackelia virginiana)

Conservation Status
Virginia stickseed
Photo by Alfredo Colon
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Virginia stickseed is a 15 to 47 tall, erect, lanky, biennial forb that rises usually on a solitary stem from a short taproot. In its first year it appears as a rosette of basal leaves. In the second year is sends up a flowering stem.

The stems are erect, stout, and rough to the touch. They are moderately covered with short, fine hairs. The hairs above the midpoint are spreading or point upward, those below the midpoint point downward. They have a few to many branches above the middle. The branches are perpendicular to the stem.

The lowest stem leaves are alternate, elliptic to egg-shaped, 2 to 12 long, and ¾ to 4 wide. They are on narrowly winged, up to 2 long leaf stalks. They are abruptly narrowed at the base and taper to a sharp point at the tip with straight sides along the tip. There is a single prominent midvein and 3 to 7 noticeable pairs of lateral veins. The upper surface is rough to the touch and moderately covered with minute, stiff hairs. The lower surface is moderately covered with minute, fine hairs and, especially along the veins, longer hairs. The margins are untoothed. Lower stem leaves just above the lowest ones are similar but half as long. Stem leaves become progressively smaller, narrower, and shorter stalked as they ascend the stem. Upper stem leaves are narrowly lance-shaped and stalkless. Basal leaves are similar to lower stem leaves but are smaller. They are usually withered or absent by flowering time.

The inflorescence is an unbranched array (raceme) of many small flowers. The racemes usually occur in pairs at the ends of the branches, sometimes on short branches from leaf axils. They are short and closely spaced when they first appear, 2 to 6 long, widely spaced, and usually coiled like a scorpion’s tail when mature. The axis of the raceme is covered with spreading to ascending hairs. The flowers are on 1 32 to long stalks (peduncles). The flowers near the base of the raceme are subtended by lance-shaped to linear lance-shaped, leaf-like appendages (bracts). The bracts become progressively smaller as they ascend the stem, and disappear midway through the raceme.

Each flower is 1 16to in diameter. There are 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are green and covered with bristly hairs. They are fused at the base into a very short calyx tube, then separated into 5 lance-shaped, 1 32to 1 16 long lobes. The lobes are much longer than the tube. The petals are white (rarely pale blue). They are fused at the base into a 1 32to 1 16 long corolla tube, then separated into 5 rounded, 1 32long lobes. In the throat of the trumpet shaped corolla there are 5 white scale-like appendages. The stamens have very short filaments and do not extend beyond the corolla tube. The style does not extend beyond the corolla tube.

The fruit is a tight cluster of 4 nutlets. Together, the cluster of nutlets is globe-shaped, 1 16 to long. The individual nutlet is densely covered with long, barbed bristles, both on the margins and on the upper (dorsal) surface, where there are 10 to 25 bristles. It is green at first, turning brown when ripe. At fruiting time the peduncles become slightly longer and droop downward; and the calyx persists, the lobes elongating to 1 16 to long. The seeds spread by clinging to the fur of passing animals and the legs and socks of passing hikers.




15 to 47


Flower Color




Similar Species

  American stickseed (Hackelia deflexa var. americana) individual nutlet has bristles around the margins but no bristles, rarely 1 to 3 short bristles, on the dorsal surface.  

Moderate moisture. Upland woods, woodland edges, thickets, stream banks, riverbanks, edges of pastures, and roadsides. Partial sun to medium shade.




July to September


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 Cynoglossoideae  
  Tribe Rochelieae  



Subordinate Taxa






Lappula virginiana

Myosotis virginiana


Common Names


beggar’s lice





Virginia stickseed

woodland hound’s-tongue













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



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



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



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



On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.



In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



A thin, flat, membranous, usually transparent appendage on the margin of a structure.

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Alfredo Colon

    Virginia stickseed      


    Virginia stickseed   Virginia stickseed  
    Virginia stickseed      


    Virginia stickseed   Virginia stickseed  
    Virginia stickseed      

Early Spring

    Virginia stickseed   Virginia stickseed  



  Hackelia virginiana
Butler Herbarium
  Hackelia virginiana  



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  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

Virginia stickseed  

Baker Park Reserve

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Stone Lake State Park

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blaine Preserve SNA

Blue Mounds State Park

Brownsville Bluff SNA

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Bur Oak WMA

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Crystal Spring SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Flandrau State Park

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Greenleaf Lake SRA

Hampton Woods WMA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hastings SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Kasota Prairie SNA

Keller Regional Park

Kilen Woods State Park

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Louise State Park

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Leif Mountain

Minneopa State Park

Mississippi River County Park

Monson Lake State Park

Mound Prairie SNA

Myre-Big Island State Park

Ney Nature Center

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Old Mill State Park

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Phelps Lake WMA

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Prairie Bush Clover SNA

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Quarry Park SNA

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Rice Lake State Park

Ritter Farm Park

River Terrace Prairie SNA

River Warren Outcrops SNA

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rockville County Park

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Seminary Fen SNA

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Seven Springs WMA

Sheepberry Fen

Sibley State Park

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Springbrook Nature Center

Staffanson Prairie

Thompson County Park

Tiedemann WMA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Uncas Dunes SNA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Whitewater State Park

Wild River State Park

Wood-Rill SNA

Woodbury WMA

Woodland Trails Regional Park







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