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Montana Field Guides

Rush Skeleton-plant - Lygodesmia juncea

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 4

External Links

General Description
Rhizomatous perennial. Stems erect, branched, 15–50 cm. Herbage glabrous. Leaves cauline, alternate, linear, 5–30 mm long; the upper reduced to scales. Heads ligulate, solitary on branch tips; involucre obconic, 9–16 mm high; phyllaries in 2 series; outer minute; inner ca. 5, linear, glabrous, scarious-margined; receptacle flat, naked. Ray flowers perfect, ca. 5; ligules 9–12 mm long, pinkish. Pappus off-white, capillary bristles. Achenes fusiform, 6–10 mm long, 5-ribbed, glabrous (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Diagnostic Characteristics
These plants can be confused by their common name, scientific name, and/or initial appearance because at some point they can exhibit green or brown stems that are leafless or inconspicuously leafy.
Here is how to differentiate them:

Rush Skeleton-plant - Lygodesmia juncea, native:
* In Aster Family; pinkish flowerheads occur at the tips of stems. About 5 florets per flowerhead.
* Achenes are not beaked, but sometimes are fusiform.
* Plants lack milky sap.
* Plants are without hairs (glabrous).
* Plants are rhizomatous perennial forbs.

Rush skeletonweed - Chondrilla juncea, exotic and Noxious:
* In Aster Family; yellow flowerheads occur at the tips of stems or in the axils of leaves. About 7-15 florets per flowerhead.
* Achenes (fruits) have a beak of 5-6mm long.
* Stems, leaves, and inflorescence have milky sap.
* Plants have hairs being hirsute to glabrate. On the lower 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) of the stem the hairs point downward while the upper stem is lacks hairs or has a few rigid hairs.
* Plants are taprooted perennial forbs.

Spiny Skeletonweed - Pleiacanthus spinosus, native, SOC:
* In Aster Family; pinkish flowerheads occur solitary on upper branches. About 3 florets per flowerhead.
* Achenes are not beaked, but are tubular.
* Plants have a milky sap.
* Plants have hairs, being glabrate to weakly tomentose.
* Plants are taprooted with a brown-woolly branched crown.
* Stems are spine-tipped and branched.

Tall Tumble-mustard - Sisymbrium altissimum, exotic:
* In Mustard Family; flowers with 4 (pale) yellow petals and 4 green to yellowish sepals.
* Stems are leafy with large pinnately lobed leaves.
* In fruit or during the winter stems appear leafless. Plants branch, becoming round.
* Fruit is a long and narrow silique that is equal in width to its stem (pedicel).

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
BC to MB south to AZ, NM, TX, IN and MI (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 202

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Grasslands, sagebrush steppe, open forest, roadsides; plains, valleys (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Anderson, N.L. 1951. Field studies on the biology of range grasshoppers of southeastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 96 p.
    • Chadde, S.W. 1985. Initial recovery patterns of southwestern Montana foothill range. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 103 p.
    • Gobielle, J. 1992. The effects of fire on Merriam's turkey broad habitat in southeastern Montana. M.S. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman. 61 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Mussgnug, G.L. 1972. The structure and performance of an adult population of Aulocara elliotti (Thomas) (Orthoptera, Acrididae) near Billings, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 97 p.
    • Rundquist, V.M. 1973. Avian ecology on stock ponds in two vegetational types in north-central Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 112 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Rush Skeleton-plant — Lygodesmia juncea.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from