Hoary Puccoon, Lithospermum canescens


Hoary Puccoon is a bright addition to spring prairies. Its lively yellow/orange flowers are a treat to find during a season when most vegetation is only just beginning to green up. It is among a handful of indicator plants that are used to determine if an area is likely to be a remnant prairie or a planting. Very difficult to grow from seed, it is never included in restoration seed mixes. As such, finding a hoary puccoon in the wild indicates that you have found a high quality remnant prairie.

As rare as it may be to find in the field, it is even more rare to find in a nursery. We are one of the very few nurseries to offer this plant. It is famously difficult to germinate, but grows well from a seedling. David Sollenberger of the Chicago Botanic Garden has done extensive research on the difficulty of propagating hoary puccoon. If you’d like more information on some unique features of this plant, be sure to check out this short blog post by him.

Before I cracked the code on germinating these plants, I would propagate them from root cuttings. I noticed while doing this that the blade of my knife would turn red! I worried that I had cut myself in the process, but discovered that it was the root itself producing the color! According to the US Forest Service, “The name ‘Puccoon’ comes from the word ‘poughkone,’ which is the name given to this plant by the Powhatan tribe who used the roots to make a red dye.” The children would chew on the roots with their gum to dye it red. Like so many native plants it is beautiful to behold and rich in the history of this place.

Life Cycle: Perennial
Size: 6-18″
Sun: Full, Partial
Soil: Medium-Dry, Dry
Bloom Time: May
Advantages: Pollinator Favorite Deer Resistant Highly recommended for home gardens