western marbleseed

(Lithospermum occidentale)

Conservation Status
western marbleseed
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Western marbleseed is a 12 to 28 tall, erect or ascending, perennial forb that rises on several stems from a stout, woody root.

The stems are erect, leafy, and often unbranched below the inflorescence. They are moderately to densely covered with appressed-ascending hairs of about equal length and with scattered, loosely ascending to spreading hairs.

Basal leaves are absent and lower leaves withered or absent by the time the plant is in flower. Stem leaves are alternate, stalkless, unlobed, and untoothed. The leaf blades are lance-shaped to narrowly egg-shaped, ¾ to 3 long, and ½ to ¾ wide. They are angled or tapered at the base and angled or tapered to a sharp point at the tip. There is a midvein and 2 or 3 pairs of lateral veins that curve toward the leaf tip. The veins are strongly recessed on the upper surface, strongly raised on the lower surface. The upper and lower leaf surfaces are densely covered with appressed to loosely appressed hairs, all of about equal length.

The inflorescence is a crowded, one-sided, coiled, unbranched, spike-like cluster (raceme) at the ends of the stem and branches. The shape of the raceme resembles a scorpion’s tail.

The flowers are to long, 1½ to 2 times as long as wide, and tubular-shaped, converging to a point near the tip with straight sides along the tip. The 5 petals are dull white or greenish white and hairy. The style protrudes from the floral tube. These flowers mature reproductively well before the petals are developed.

The fruit is a white, smooth, shiny, marble-like, to 3 16 (3.5 to 5 mm) in diameter nutlet. It does not have a collar around the attachment point. It remains on the plant throughout the winter.




12 to 28


Flower Color


Dull white or greenish white


Similar Species

  Softhair marbleseed (Lithospermum parviflorum) is the eastern species. It is a taller plant, up to 48 tall. The leaves are much larger, up to 5½long and 1½ wide. The nutlet is dull and less than in diameter, and has a small collar around the attachment point.  

Moderately dry. Prairies, open woods. Full sun.




June to July




Range Map – western marbleseed



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  




Boraginaceae (borage)  
  Subfamily Boraginoideae  
  Tribe Lithospermeae  


Lithospermum (stoneseeds, puccoons, and gromwells)  

The nomenclature for this species has been in flux for more than two decades. It was originally listed as Onosmodium molle ssp. occidentale. In 1995 it was renamed Onosmodium bejariense var. occidentale (Turner, 1995). In 2009, based on a reassessment of DNA data, all of the species in the genus Onosmodium and four other genera were transferred to the genus Lithospermum. This subspecies, along with ssp. hispidissimum (softhair marbleseed), became synonyms of Lithospermum onosmodium. In December, 2011, the former subspecies of Onosmodium bejariense were raised to specific rank (Cohen and Davis, 2011). The new name of this species, complete with author, is Lithospermum occidentale Weakley, Witsell & D. Estes.

The following reputable and current (online) sources are not in accord regarding the scientific name for this plant as of this writing (3/24/2021).


Flora of North America

Onosmodium molle ssp. occidentale


Lithospermum onosmodium

International Plant Names Index (IPNI)

Lithospermum occidentale


Onosmodium bejariense var. occidentale

Plants of the World Online (POWO)

Lithospermum occidentale

World Flora Online

Lithospermum occidentale


The name Lithospermum occidentale, used on MinnesotaSeasons.com, is from Weakley, et al (see Source below), the source of the most recent taxonomic revision.


Source: Weakley, A.S., R.J. LeBlond, B. Sorrie, C.T. Witsell, L.D. Estes, K. Gandhi, K.G. Mathews, and A. Ebihara. 2011. New combinations, rank changes, and nomenclatural and taxonomic comments in the vascular flora of the southeastern United States. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 5: 437-455.


Subordinate Taxa






Onosmodium bejariense var. occidentale

Onosmodium molle ssp. occidentale

Onosmodium molle var. occidentale

Onosmodium occidentale

Onosmodium occidentale var. sylvestre


Common Names


western false gromwell

western marbleseed

western onosmodium











An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.


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