scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)
poor man's weather-glass
shepherd's weather glass
Some of the above listed common names may apply to one or both
of the subspecies associated with scarlet pimpernel.
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
Anagallis arvensis L.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for scarlet
pimpernel is Anagallis arvensis L. Until recently, it has been assumed
there were two subspecies of Analallis arvensis found in North Amer-
ica: 1) subspecies arvensis, and 2) foemina (Mill.) Schinz & Thell.
Subspecies foemina is commonly called poorman's weatherglass; it
has not been recorded as occurring in Virginia. However, in 2007, a
molecular phylogenetic study showed that Anagallis foemina is more
closely related to Anagallis monelli than to Anagallis arvensis, and
should be treated as a separate species. Scarlet pimperenel is often
mistakenly identified as common chickweed (Stellaria media), how-
ever scarlet pimpernel has square stems and reddish-orange flowers
while common chickweed has round stems and white flowers. Add-
itionally, the purple spots on the lower leaf surfaces of scarlet pim-
pernel help to distinguish this weed from other similar weed species.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Scarlet pimpernel is a low-growing, branching, winter or sum-
mer annual, and occasionally, biennial broadleaf plant. The mature
plant grows up to 1-1/3 feet tall. Stems are square in cross-section,
fleshy, hairless, branching at the base, and grow upright or prostrate.
Leaves: Leaves are stalkless, oval to football shaped with triangular
tips, reaching 1 inch in length, and sometimes dotted with dark or
purplish glands on the lower surface. Leaves are opposite to one
another along the stem, or sometimes around the stem in a whorl
(occassionally occurring in whorls of three) and are without petioles.
Leaves may have tiny hairs.
Flowers: Solitary flowers arise from the area between the stem and
leaves (leaf axils) and occur on relatively long stalks (pedicels).
Flowers have five salmon-orange colored petals, slender stalks; on
rare occasion flowers can be brick red, bright blue or white. The
flowers are only open during dry, sunny weather; they remain closed
during cool or cloudy weather. Even in bright weather, the flowers
are only open for a comparatively short time - never opening until
between eight and nine in the morning and shutting up before three
o'clock in the afternoon. As the petals are only brilliantly coloured
on their upper faces, the flowers when closed disappear from view
among the greenness of the leaves.
Fruit/Seeds: Fruit are tiny, round capsules about 1/10 to 1/6 of an
inch (3–4 mm) in diameter that contain many small (1.3 mm long),
brown seeds. They are suspended from downward curved stalks. A
lid at the top of each capsule opens and releases seeds. Seeds are egg
to football shaped, threesided, black or brown, 1/25 to 1/16 of an inch
(1–1.5 mm) long, and covered with small wartlike projections.
Roots: The roots are fibrous.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Scarlet pimpernel propogates itself
HABITAT TYPES: Scarlet pimpernel occurs in a wide range of
habitats, many of which are human created. Typical habitats include
crop fields, vineyards, orchards, pastures, grassland, turf, gardens,
landscaped areas, urban sites, roadsides, margins of vernal pools,
streams, marshes, coastal terraces, ocean beaches, and other disturb-
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Scarlet pimpernel has a wide range
of soil situations suitable for growth. It can thrive in light (sandy),
medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. It also can thrive in acid,
neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It prefers full sun to partial sum; it
cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Scarlet pimpernel has a long
blooming period - flowering generally takes place from March into
August (June into August most common), with some plants bloom-
ing into September.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Scarlet pimpernel occurs in all
states in the United States except Colorado, Wyoming, and North
Dakota, and in all Canadian provinces except Manitoba, the Labra-
dor region of Newfoundland and the far northern provinces. It has
not been reported as occurring in Alaska.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: There is insufficient information per-
taining to the value scarlet pimpernel may have for wildlife. Butter-
flies, and possibly some ants, may be attracted to this non-native plant.
If consumed, scarlet pimpernel can be toxic to livestock and humans.
Toxicity level ranges from virtually nontoxic to fatally toxic and ap-
pears to correlate with summer rainfall levels. Although leaves contain
saponins and other potentially toxic compounds, it is uncertain as to
what substance is responsible for livestock poisonings. If more palat-
able forage is available, livestock will avoid eating this bitter-leaved
Crooked Run Valley