Species Spotlight – Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)
Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox) is an elusive species confined to nearly undisturbed sites in state and national forests. Propagated mostly through division in the wild (we have yet to observe seed set on this species), Phlox stolonifera is found in small patches that somehow have survived 100s of years of habitat manipulation.
In Pennsylvania, its habitat closely resembles that of most Antennaria (pussytoes) species in the state; tops of slopes in well-drained, thin soils where competition from other plant species is severely limited.
This particular patch was located in the Central Appalachian region in Pennsylvania – EcoRegion 069b, Uplands and Valleys of Mixed Land Use. Perched atop a forest road cut and relatively safe from machinery, people, and forest encroachment.
Phlox stolonifera colors do seem to vary across large distances, which suggests that the species retains enough genetic diversity to adapt to local conditions. This patch in 069b sports a clean pink with a darkish eye.
For example, in the southern Appalachians – EcoRegion 066g Southern Metasedimentary Mountains – there is a patch growing in a riparian area that sports a rich, deep blue/purple color. Still Phlox stolonifera, but a very different part of the country, very different habitat, and very different color. The picture below does not do justice to the amazing color of this population.