The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States


Common Name
Wild Oats (Sissileleaf Bellwort, Straw-lily, Uvulaire à feuilles sessiles)


Scientific Name
Uvularia sessilifolia L.


Plant Family
Lily (Liliaceae)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Spring Flowering



Wild Oats is one of the two Bellworts in the Garden (the other is the Large-flowered Bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora). Wild Oats is a small native perennial forb rarely over 12 inches high with a single smooth stem that iscan make one angled branch in the upper part. The stem is green initially but can become reddish-purplish in the upper part by flowering time. The lower section of the stem is enclosed in a long veined sheath.

Leaves: Unlike it's larger cousin, the leaves clasp but are not pierced by the stem. There can be one or two leaves below any stem branch. They are narrowly to broadly elliptic, smooth, taper to a pointed tip and the margins may have very minute teeth. Veins are parallel to the margin; the underside has very fine hair.

Flowers: There is one flower per stem, with 6 pale yellowish to straw colored tepals (petals and sepals combined into a single form) bell-shaped at the base, about one inch long, and drooping. The tepals have rounded to acute tips which flare outward. The outer surface is without hair and usually shows fine veining. The ovary is 3 locular (chambered) and triangular. The 6 stamens and pistil and style are hidden within the tepals. The stigma of the style is 3-lobed.

Seed: Fertile flowers produce a 3-winged short-stalked capsule that has no beaks. Each of the 3 cells in the capsule produces several 3 to 4 mm long seeds.


Habitat: Wild Oats grows from slender elongated rhizomes and spreads by underground stolons but the plant usually does not form large clumps like the Large-flowered Bellwort. It grows in woods and clearings where it has dappled sun before tree canopy leafout. Moist to moderate moisture conditions, average soils, partial shade after flowering work well.

Names: The genus Uvularia is derived from the anatomical term uvula, meaning a lobe hanging from the back of a person's palate, and refers to the hanging flowers of this genus. The species sessilifolia is Latin, referring to the sessile (unstalked) leaves. The author name for the plant classification, from 1753, - 'L.' is for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Wild Oats flower calyx

Above: The inflorescence consists of a single flower, drooping from the top of the stem or from a branch of the stem. The flower stem enlarges slightly at the base of the flower with the ovary protected therein.

Below: Stems have only two branches at most. The lower section of the stem is enclosed in a long veined sheath.

Wild Oats stem sheath

Below: 1st photo - the leaf underside clearly shows the parallel main and minor veins. The undersurface has very fine hair. 2nd photo - Developing seed pod - 3 celled with wings on the angles.

leaf underside Wild Oats pod
Wild Oats


Notes: Eloise Butler recorded planting this species from specimens she brought back to Minneapolis from Winter Pond, Mass. in Sept. 1909. On May 8, 1910 she planted specimens obtained in Osceola, WI. On April 26, 1913 she put in plants from Kelsey's Nursery in North Carolina. She used a botanical name that was in use at that time, but now not used - Oakesia sessilifolia. It is listed on Martha Crone's 1951 census of Garden plants and she planted it in 1952.

Wild Oats is native to most counties of Minnesota from the metro area north except for those in the drier western part of the state. Also to several counties south of the Metro area that border the Mississippi River. In North America it is found from central plains eastward in the U.S. and Canada except for the 3 Canadian Maritime Provinces. This species and U. grandiflora are the only two species of Uvularia found in Minnesota. There are five species of Uvularia in North America.

Lore: Fernald (Ref. #6) reports that Manasseh Cutler in his An Account of Some of the Vegetable Productions Naturally Growing in this Part of America, Botanically Arranged, of 1785, stated that the young shoots could be eaten like asparagus and that the roots could be used in "diet drinks".

Poem: Dora Read Goodale (1866 - 1915) wrote a poem about this flower.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.