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Minuartia groenlandica (Retz.) Ostenf.

Photo: Minuartia groenlandica

Mountain Sandwort

Habitat: Granitic ledges and gravel. [Rocky summits and outcrops (non-forested, upland); Alpine or subalpine (non-forested, upland)]

Range: Greenland and Labrador to northern New England, New York, along coast of Nova Scotia to eastern Maine.

Aids to Identification: Mountain sandwort is a low-growing perennial with dense tufts of linear opposite leaves at the base. Its slender flowering stems with cymes of 1-30 white, five-petaled flowers rise 5-10 cm above the matted foliage. Minuartia groenlandica differs from M. glabra in that it has larger flowers (petals 6-10 mm long compared to 4-6 mm long) and more densely tufted leafy basal shoots.

Photo: Minuartia groenlandica

Ecological characteristics: Mountain sandwort most often grows on relatively dry wind-swept exposures of acidic rock or gravel. In such habitats, it may be abundant forming extensive mats where the irregularities of the rock substrate afford it a niche. While its occurrence in Greenland and Labrador and at elevations above 1200 m in Maine indicate its tolerance for climatic extremes, it is probably restricted from less severe habitats by competition from other plants.

Phenology: A perennial, flowers June - September, fruits July - October.

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Photo: Minuartia groenlandica habitat

Synonyms: Formerly known as Arenaria groenlandica (Retz.) Spreng. Maine populations are represented by the subspecies groenlandica.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 26 town(s) in the following county(ies): Franklin, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Washington.

Dates of documented observations are: 1888, 1898, 1907, 1919, 1938, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1980 (4), 1981 (5), 1982, 1984 (4), 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991 (2), 1992 (4), 1996 (3), 1997, 2000, 2001 (2), 2002 (3)

Reason(s) for rarity: At southern limit of range, habitat somewhat restricted.

Conservation considerations: Some populations could be threatened by heavy recreational (hiking) use of its mountain-top habitat, but the plant appears to cope well with moderate disturbance.