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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Musk-root - Adoxa moschatellina

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 9

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Sparsely distributed across southwest Montana. Populations are generally small, though they occur in habitats not generally impacted by human disturbance or invasive weeds. Building of roads and trails may potentially impact populations.
General Description
Musk-root is a small, delicate, musky-scented herbaceous perennial, 5-20 cm tall. The several basal leaves have long petioles and blades divided into threes 2-3 times, with the ultimate segments broadly egg-shaped and lobed. There is one opposite pair of smaller stem leaves which are less dissected. Usually 5 flowers are borne in a compact head-like inflorescence at the tip of the stem. The inconspicuous, yellowish-green flowers, 5-8 mm wide, are of two types: outside flowers usually have 3 sepals and 5 united petals, while the terminal flowers have 2 sepals and 4 united petals. The sepals are united to the wall of the ovary. The small dry fruit has 4-5 seeds.

Flowering occurs in June and early July, and fruiting continues through July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The leaves of this unusual plant resemble those of Aquilegia spp., and the flowers superficially resemble those of some Saxifraga spp., but it differs in having only 2-3 sepals. This monotypic family is most closely related to the Valerian Family from which it differs in having twice as many stamens as petals.

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
A circumboreal plant of the upper Midwest and Canada extending south to southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northern Iowa. Disjunct populations in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 28

(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)

Vernally moist places in the mountains at the bottom of undisturbed, open rock slides that have cold air drainage.
Predicted Suitable Habitat Model

This species has a Predicted Suitable Habitat Model available.

To learn how these Models were created see

Populations are often small. Plants have been observed growing where cold air flow is channelled beneath rock slides.

At one location where roads and trails were built across rock slides disrupting cold air flow from beneath the rocks, musk-root was not found in otherwise suitable habitat.

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Williams, K.L. 2012. Classification of the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, forests and alpine vegetation associations of the Custer National Forest portion of the Beartooth Mountains in southcentral Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 376 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Musk-root — Adoxa moschatellina.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from