Spring Beauties in North Carolina

The purpose of this page is to provide an identification aid for spring beauties (genus Claytonia) in the mountains of North Carolina. There are only two species native to North Carolina, Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) and Virginia Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), and their ranges overlap in the mountains.

C. caroliniana is common in rich cove and northern hardwood forests throughout the mountains and mostly found above 3,500 ft elevation, whereas C. virginica is more common in moist to rich forests in the eastern and central Piedmont. However, it can also be found in the mountain counties, usually below 3,500 ft elevation. In fact, both species may occur in very close proximity to each other, such as at New River State Park (~2,700 ft elevation) where C. virginica grows along the river trail and C. caroliniana along the adjacent forest trail.

When trying to distinguish between the two species based on morphology, it is diagnostic to get a good view of their leaves. Their flowers look pretty much identical, but they can be easily distinguished by the shape of their leaves. C. caroliniana has a broader leaf blade clearly differentiated from a petiole attaching it to the stem, whereas C. virginica has slender, grass-like leaves without a clearly differentiated petiole.

The NC range map above was colored in using data from the Vascular Plants of North Carolina website. The plant drawings are from the USDA PLANTS database and not copyrighted (original source: Britton & Brown: An illustrated flora of the northern United States, published 1913). For another comparison of the leaves of the two species, also see the Native Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia website.

Posted on November 10, 2019 12:42 AM by annkatrinrose annkatrinrose


Very useful, even in my home state of VT. I'll remember to take photos of the leaves next spring. Thanks!

Posted by trscavo about 4 years ago

Nicely done.

Posted by tsn about 4 years ago

And keep an eye out for spring beauty rust.

Posted by eraskin about 4 years ago

Thanks! I've never noticed the rust and I've photographed a lot of spring beauties. Will definitely keep an eye out for it.

Posted by annkatrinrose about 4 years ago

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