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Cliff Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium saxicola)

Life history

Species overview

Cliff Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium saxicola), a Wisconsin Threatened plant, is found on dry to moist, shaded sandstone ledges along the Kickapoo and Wisconsin Rivers. Blooming occurs late July through early September; fruiting occurs early September through early October. The optimal identification period for this species is early August through early October.

Synonyms: Gnaphalium saxicola, G. obtusifolium var. saxicola, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium ssp. saxicola.


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from fragrant cudweed (G. obtusifolium var. obtusifolium) by habitat (cliff vs. dry open ground), shorter stature (25 cm vs 30 to 100 cm), habit (slender and lax vs. upright and robust), and leaves, which are broader and somewhat less hairy beneath.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence ample, branched, and many-headed in well developed plants, flat or round-topped and often elongate; involucre yellowish or dingy, woolly only near the base, 5 to 7 mm.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achenes smooth.
  • Leaf characteristics: Numerous, alternate, essentially all cauline, lance-linear, up to 10 cm long by 1 cm wide, sessile but not decurrent, white-wooly beneath, green and smooth or slightly woolly above.


  • Blooming phenology: late July through early September
  • Fruiting phenology: early September through early October
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early August through early October


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Annual
  • Comments: Associated Species: Phegopteris connectilis, Sullivantia renifolia, and few other associates.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Cliff Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium saxicola). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Pseudognaphalium saxicola in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5T2
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on dry to moist, shaded sandstone ledges along the Kickapoo and Wisconsin Rivers.
  • Soils: Thin soils over sandstone

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Cliff Cudweed. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Dry Cliff 3
Moist Cliff 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Cliff Cudweed. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Central Sand Plains 3
Western Coulee and Ridges 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.
  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.
  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.


Cliff Cudweed Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Cliff Cudweed Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Cliff Cudweed Photo.

Cliff cudweed occurs in only two of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes, and possibly nowhere else in the world.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Cliff Cudweed Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Cliff Cudweed Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition