Mitella diphylla

Another article from Bryant today. He writes:

I would like to thank Robert Klips (aka Orthotrichum @Flickr) for this beautiful photo of Mitella diphylla from the UBC Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. I was drawn to the unusual inflorescence of this perennial herb. Mitella diphylla is native to eastern North America, and can be found most often in wooded areas or rocky outcrops with rich and moist soil. A member of the Saxifragaceae, Mitella contains 20 recognized species, 9 of which are indigenous to North America.

The flowers of Mitella diphylla bloom in the late spring and are made up of five pinnatifid petals, which give the flower a snowflake-like appearance. The flowers are small (roughly ½ cm) and form a sparse raceme on an upright stalk, which ranges from 10-45(-51) cm tall. There are 10 yellow stamens and two green styles. The stalk is highly pubescent, which can be seen to the right of the flower in the photo above. Not far down the stalk from the raceme is a pair of leaves (hence diphylla) that are attached to the stalk by very short petioles. At the base of the stalk are the basal leaves, which have long and pubescent petioles. Mitella diphylla is a shade tolerant plant that prefers the spotty sunlight conditions under an open forest canopy. Photographs of Mitella diphylla are available from the Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin.

The species is mainly pollinated by both short-tongue and long-tongue bees as well as syrphid flies, which feed on the pollen. In early July, the seeds are formed in open green cup-like structures (see photos via Freckmann Herbarium link). The mature seeds can be dispersed by raindrops, which hit the cups and fling the seeds out of the cup! Also, plants can form clumps or colonies through vegetative propagation via spreading fibrous roots. Mitella diphylla makes a great ground cover for shade gardens due to its ability to naturalize and colonize.

Mitella diphylla

10 responses to “Mitella diphylla”

  1. Stephen J. Danko

    I count six petals and 12 stamens in this photo, not five and 10 as described in the text. Clearly there are six petals, but I’m not sure about the number of stamens.

  2. Dan Post

    5 petals? or 6 petals?

  3. Stephen J. Danko

    It lloks like the number of petals and stamens must be variable. I found a photo of this species with five petals and 10 stamens at http://blogs.wabash.edu/whatsthatplant/2009/04/29/mitella-diphylla/ and one with four petals and 8 stamens at http://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/welcome-to-a-photographic-journey-through-the-fields-woods-and-marshes-of-new-england/

  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Heh, just Bryant’s luck that he selected a 6 petal version, instead of the typical 5 petal (see photos at U Wisc link).

  5. k garness

    When looking for this wonderful diminutive plant it might be good to remember that it closely resembles the basal rosettes of coralbells, to which it is related. My experience is that it is often a lighter green than the surrounding associate plants – don’t know why! The number of petals does seem to vary a bit – this is a species we monitor for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plants of Concern program. It’s very rare here in NE Illinois and a great find! : ) I find it mostly near rotting oak trees – there seems to be a fungal symbiont relationship going on, maybe?

  6. phillip

    ..Bryant..being under a microscope from so many eyes is a..er.. myself a retired professional chef was beat up and praised by critics..loved by clientele’..hated by competition….i see Daniel is enjoying you getting bumps..like he did to get those calluses we all get with time..
    ..i like the spirt and zeal in your writing..a good tone…do you realize how many ways you can use eggs..?..i do…!

  7. Ryan Folk

    Hello all, this is my plant that was being photographed, from a large boulder at Piatt Park in SE Ohio. The ordinary number for this species is 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 stamens, and 2 styles. However, in the Saxifragaceae and elsewhere sporadic deformities are quite common leading to numbers based on 4 and 6. In this case, the anther number is 12. Other flowers on this plant have the ordinary number. The styles remain two. The only saxifrage I know of that has truly made the switch to another (6)-merosity is Heuchera eastwoodiae.
    This is an interesting clone — I have kept it in constant and profuse flower since mid-January indoors under fluorescent lights, and it is only now slowing down. Mitella diphylla is common in southern and NE Ohio but apparently quite rare in the center of the state.

  8. Bryant DeRoy

    Phillip:
    Thank you for the kind words and positive encouragement. With each correction I learn something valuable and new about writing for such a well informed and enthusiastic audience. In my opinion, constructive criticism is one of the best ways to improve almost any skill. I gladly welcome all comments and corrections and greatly appreciate those from the past two entries.

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    spring’s vigor hides in sodden marshes
    then brightly disgorges dense flowers
    han yu 768-824
    here we are 2012 and still in wonder of our natural world
    thank you for the comments and links my grandparents
    iived in crawfordsville indiana and for one of my favorites
    looking at botanical illustrations thank you ma’m
    you are fine mr b han yu would understand

  10. Connie Hoge

    I love this photo. Wow- what mystery of completeness in such tiny a tiny package. And from past posts I understand that this is still large in the realm of small. I love this newsletter, I love Daniel and now I love Bryant, too. And it is so good to hear from Elizabeth again, whom I have loved and missed.

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