wild sweet William

(Phlox maculata ssp. maculata)

Conservation Status
wild sweet William
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N4N5 - Apparently Secure to Secure

SNR - Unranked


Special Concern

Wetland Indicator Status

FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Wild sweet William is a 16 to 36 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on a single stem from a shallow, slender rhizome.

The stems are unbranched, spotted or streaked with purple, and hairless or covered with minute, short hairs.

There are 10 to 15 pairs of opposite leaves on the stem. They are 3 to 4 long, and up to ¾ wide. The lower leaves are narrowly lance-shaped to linear and stalkless. The upper leaves are lance-shaped to oblong egg-shaped and clasp the stem at the base. The margins are untoothed and usually hairless. The upper surface is dark green and often glossy. The lateral veins are obscure.

The inflorescence is a cylinder-shaped or narrowly cone-shaped cluster of about 100 flowers at the end of the stem and in the upper leaf axils. The clusters in upper leaf axils are on short stalks, giving the overall appearance of a single, cylinder-shaped, terminal inflorescence.

The calyx is hairless.

The flowers are ½ to 1 wide and fragrant. They have 5 purple, pink, or white petals. The petals unite at the base forming a long, thin corolla tube, then separate into 5 long, widely spreading lobes. The petal lobes are overlapping, almost round, and are not notched at the tip. The stamens are visible at the opening of the corolla tube but do not extend far beyond the tube.

The fruit is a 3-chambered, egg-shaped capsule with 1 or several seeds per chamber.




16 to 36


Flower Color


Purple, pink, or white


Similar Species


Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is a cultivated plant that can get to six feet tall. The stems are more leafy, with 15 to 40 pairs of opposite leaves. Upper leaves are not quite opposite. The leaves are conspicuously veined. Leaf margins have bristly hairs. The inflorescence is rounded.

Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata ssp. laphamii) is a smaller plant, 9 to 18 tall at maturity. The petal lobes abruptly narrow before the throat. The stamens are not visible at the opening of the corolla tube.

Moss phlox (Phlox subulata ssp. subulata) is a prostrate ground cover with whorled, linear to awl-shaped leaves. The flower petals are notched at the tip. It is found in rocky areas and sandy or gravelly soil.

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) has alternate, toothed leaves and flowers with four petals.


Lowland woods, wet meadows. Full or partial sun.




June to September


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  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  


Ericales (heathers, balsams, primroses, and allies)  


Polemoniaceae (phlox)  
  Subfamily Polemonioideae  


Phlox (phloxes)  
  Section Phlox  
  Species Phlox maculata (wild sweet William)  

Subordinate Taxa



  Phlox maculata var. odorata  

Common Names


meadow phlox

northern meadow phlox

spotted phlox

wild sweet William

wild sweetwilliam













The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube.



Describing a leaf that wholly or partly surrounds the stem but does not fuse at the base.



A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

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