Slender sandwort (Minuartia patula)

Slender sandwort in flower

Top facts

  • A resilient species, the slender sandwort is able to tolerate high levels of pollution that would kill other plant species.
  • Although clay or gravelly soil is preferred by the slender sandwort, this species is known to live on many substrates.
  • The slender sandwort can grow in many hostile environments, including on limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops.
  • A protandrous species, the slender sandwort begins life as a male and gradually turns into a female.
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Slender sandwort fact file

Slender sandwort description

GenusMinuartia (1)

The slender sandwort (Minuartia patula) is a delicate (5), highly branched annual plant (4), with numerous tiny, white flowers (5) which have five petals and ten stamens (3). The sepals are prominently veined (2) and the base of the flower is a shallow disc shape (2).  The leaves are oppositely arranged (5) along the slender green stems (2)

The fruit of the slender sandwort is a three-valved capsule which contains very small, dark brown seeds (5). The seeds are rounded and slightly compressed (2).

Stem length: 5 - 30 cm (2)
Flower width: up to 1 cm (3)

Slender sandwort biology

Very little information is available on the reproduction or pollination processes of the slender sandwort, although they are likely to be similar to other Minuartia species. Most Minuartia species are protandrous and self-compatible, meaning they begin life as a male, gradually turning into a female, and are able to reproduce with flowers on the same plant. The flowers of Minuartia species are usually pollinated by small bees and flies. The minute seeds of the slender sandwort are thought to be dispersed by wind and may be deposited just a few centimetres from the parent plant (5). The slender sandwort flowers between April and June (6) (7), producing fruit later in the summer between May and early July (6).


Slender sandwort range

The slender sandwort is found in the eastern United States, its range spreading east from Minnesota to Ohio, and south to Alabama and Texas (2) (3) (5).


Slender sandwort habitat

The slender sandwort is generally found in prairies, meadows and on rocky outcrops (2), as well as on limestone cliffs (2) (5) (6) (7). Clay or gravelly soil is preferred by this species (2), although it is also found in limestone soils and several other substrates (5).


Slender sandwort status

The slender sandwort has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Slender sandwort threats

A relatively hardy species, the slender sandwort is known to tolerate high levels of pollution which would eliminate other plants. It may also have the potential to invade recently disturbed areas and has become established in areas where it has been introduced (6).

The main threat to the slender sandwort in its native range is habitat loss due to human settlement, agriculture and grazing pressure. Throughout its range, agricultural practices using fertilisers may increase nutrient levels in the soil and can subsequently increase the probability of invasive species establishing, as well as creating siltation problems. It is thought that existing populations of the slender sandwort are at risk of local extinction due to low recruitment levels and low seed production (5).


Slender sandwort conservation

The slender sandwort has been listed as threatened in Illinois, and endangered in Indiana and Ohio by the United States Federal Government (8).

Recommended conservation measures for the slender sandwort include protecting, managing and restoring suitable habitat areas, maintaining genetic viability and creating a seed bank for future reintroductions. To maintain the native habitat of this species, it is important that grazing is minimised and any non-native vegetation is removed. Preventing other activities such as trampling by animals or humans and the collection of wild specimens for non-scientific purposes would also be beneficial to wild populations of the slender sandwort (5).

Research on this species’ life history, natural distribution and habitat requirements is also needed to determine the exact population structure and the extent to which it is changing (5).


Find out more

Find out more about the slender sandwort:

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A plant that lives or grows for just one year.
To transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
An extensive area of flat or rolling, predominantly treeless grassland, especially the large tract or plain of central North America.
A leaf-like, usually green part of the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
The male reproductive organ of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).


  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (December, 2013)
  2. Flora of North America - Minuartia patula (December, 2013):
  3. Mohlenbrock, P.W. (2001) The Illustrated Flora of Illinois: Flowering Plants. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois.
  4. Rhoads, A.F. and Block, T.A. (2007) The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania.
  5. United States Forest Service (December, 2013)
  6. Emmitt, D. (1983) Minuartia patula (Michx.) Mattf. Spreading Sandwort. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Colombus, Ohio. Available at:
  7. Jones, R.L. (2005) Plant Life of Kentucky: An Illustrated guide to Vascular Flora. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.
  8. United States Department of Agriculture (December, 2013)

Image credit

Slender sandwort in flower  
Slender sandwort in flower

© Eric Hunt

Eric Hunt


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