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The three species of Minuartia shown on this page are very similar in both their appearance and their preferred habitats. They can be distinguished as follows:

M. macrantha is glabrous throughout. M. obtusiloba and M. rubella are glandular pubescent, at least in their inflorescences.

M. obtusiloba has rounded sepal tips that are often hooded and its petals are longer than its sepals by 1-2 mm. M. rubella has sepal tips that are acute or acuminate and not hooded and its petals are shorter than its sepals or surpass them by only 1 mm.

 

Minuartia macrantha
Minuartia macrantha
Minuartia macrantha.  Synonyms: Alsinanthe macrantha, Arenaria macrantha, Sabulina macrantha. (Large-flower Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows, scree, tundra. Summer.
Above: Colorado Trail near Stony Pass, July 26, 2017.
Left: Upper Calico Trail, August 31, 2005.

Minuartia macrantha is one of several Chickweeds that whiten alpine tundra and trail-sides above and a bit below tree line.  It is mat-forming and thrives in rocky, dry soils exposed to the intense alpine sun. The dozens of small white areas in the photograph above are clusters of Minuartia macrantha, and you can see how abundant the species can be when it finds the environment that it loves. You can also see from the photograph how difficult it might be to spot these tiny plants.

As the map below indicates, Minuartia macrantha is found in all Four Corners states.

The genus names "Alsinanthe", "Arenaria", and "Minuartia" are applied to this and related plants by various botanical experts.  "Alsinanthe" is for the resemblance of this plant to the plants of the genus "Alsine".  "Arenaria" is from the Latin "aren", meaning "sand" (thus the common name of "Sandwort", i.e., "Sand Plant").  The specific epithet, "macrantha", is Greek for "large-flowered". 

Linnaeus named the Minuartia (and the Arenaria) genus in 1753 in honor of Juan Minuart (1693-1768), a Spanish apothecary and botanist.  Per Axel Rydberg first named this species Alsinopsis macrantha in 1904, Aven Nelson named it Arenaria macrantha in 1909, House named it Minuartia macrantha in 1921, and Weber named it Alsinanthe macrantha in 1982. (Click for more biographical information about Minuart.)

Reichenbach named the Alsinanthe genus in 1841.

Minuartia macrantha

Minuartia macrantha.  Synonyms: Alsinanthe macrantha, Arenaria macrantha, Sabulina macrantha. (Large-flower Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows, scree, tundra. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 17, 2006.

Minuartia macrantha

Minuartia macrantha.  Synonyms: Alsinanthe macrantha, Arenaria macrantha, Sabulina macrantha. (Large-flower Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Meadows, scree, tundra. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 17, 2006.

Minuartia macrantha flowers usually have ten stamens and three styles.  Leaves are glabrous, minute, and crowded.

 

Minuartia obtusiloba

Minuartia obtusiloba

Minuartia obtusiloba

Minuartia obtusiloba.  (Alpine Sandwort, Alpine Stitchwort).  Synonyms: Lidia obtusiloba, Areneria obtusiloba.
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, August 31, 2005.
Black Bear Pass Road, July 20, 2008.

We generally think that life, especially delicate and beautiful life, needs shelter, water, and, in the case of plants, rich soils.  But life thrives in many environments which do not fit these criteria.  Minuartia grows on high, dry, rocky alpine ridges exposed to intense drying sun and wind.  Water drains very quickly through the rocky surroundings.  Minuartia's habitat (and growth patterns) are quite similar to those of Alpine Phlox and Moss Campion.

Minuartia obtusiloba is an abundant, handsome plant forming a very low, dense mat of bright green leaves topped by numerous white flowers on stems that just top the basal mat of leaves or exceed it by several inches.  Sepals are curved inward in a hood and they and the leaves are blunt-tipped.  In the photograph below, the inward curving tip of the sepals can best be seen at the far right.

Minuartia obtusiloba

Linnaeus named the Minuartia genus in 1753 in honor of Juan Minuart (1693-1768), a Spanish apothecary and botanist.  Rydberg named this species Alsinopsis obtusiloba in 1906, House renamed it Minuartia obtusiloba in 1921, and Löve renamed it Lidia obtusiloba in 1976, honoring Johannes Lid, 1886-1971, Norwegian botanist. (Click for more biographical information about Juan Minuart.)

William Weber places Minuartia in Alsinaceae; most other botanists, including John Kartesz, the ultimate authority for all names on this web site, place Minuartia in Caryophyllaceae.

 

Minuartia rubella

Minuartia rubella. (Red Sandwort).  SynonymTryphane rubella.
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Scree, tundra. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, August 18, 2005.

Minuartia rubella reclines upon the ground as if it were wind-swept  --  and it does usually grow in windy alpine areas, but its prostrate position is just the way it enjoys growing.  The reclining stems are about one-to-four inches long (those pictured are two inches) and a typical plant is about four inches in diameter.  Bright white, five-petaled flowers turn upward at the end of the stems.  The tiny 1/4 to 1/3 inch stiff, three-veined leaves are in four clusters evenly spaced on the stem.  Since the plant is only about an inch high, it is very easy to pass by.  Don't.  Get down to its level and marvel at its beauty.

"Tryphane" is Greek for "delicate" and "rubella" is Latin for "somewhat red", referring to the stem color.

Minuartia rubella is circumpolar and is found from the Arctic at sea level to 12,000 foot alpine ridges.  It is found in all western states and in all Canadian provinces.

Linnaeus named the Minuartia genus in 1753 in honor of Juan Minuart (1693-1768), a Spanish apothecary and botanist.  This species was first named Alsine rubella in 1812 by George Wahlenberg (1780-1851), Weber accepts Heinrich Gottlieb Reichenbach's (1793-1879) 1841 name of Tryphane rubella, and The Flora of North America and Synthesis of the North American Flora accept William Hiern's (1839-1925) Minuartia rubella designation of 1899. (Click for more biographical information about Minuart)

Minuartia rubella
Minuartia rubella. (Red Sandwort).  SynonymTryphane rubella.
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Scree, tundra. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, August 18, 2005.


Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Minuartia macrantha

Range map for Minuartia obtusiloba

Range map for Minuartia rubella