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Spring Beauty Rust

Spring Beauty is one of the early woodland ephemerals that greet us before tree buds have opened and released the leaves that will soon shade the forest floor. With April showers plentiful the ground is often damp, encouraging the growth of Spring Beauty Rust (Puccinia mariae-wilsoniae), a species of rust fungus that grows on both species of Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana and C. virginica) that we have in the Northeast. There are approximately 7,000 species of rust fungi, all of which are parasites of plants from which they obtain nutrients and on which they reproduce and complete their life cycles.

Spring Beauty Rust can be recognized by the scattered clusters of reddish-brown sori (clusters of sporangia, structures producing and containing spores) that cover the surface of Spring Beauty’s leaves, stems and the sepals on the outside of flower buds. 

If you survey a patch of Spring Beauty you will see that some are quite white while others have deep pink nectar guides and pollen.  As a rule, Spring Beauty Rust infects plants with pinker flowers.

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2 responses

  1. Alice

    What a gorgeous little flower. You wrote it ‘infects’ flowers…so it’s a ‘bad’ fungus? Does it harm plants? I’ll need to do some looking up.

    April 18, 2022 at 8:52 am

  2. Stein

    Thanks for this post, Mary. I’ve always loved Spring Beauty and every spring watch for it emerging in a nearby woods. I’ll look at it even more closely this year!

    April 18, 2022 at 2:28 pm

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