overlay image

Manitoba Museum

Borage (Boraginaceae)

Tiny Cryptanthe

Cryptantha minima Rydb.

This rare plant occurs at only four sites in Alberta and Saskatchewan. There are estimated to be fewer than 100 plants in all of Canada. Numbers are declining due to conversion of their mixed-grass prairie habitat to agricultural uses and urban development. The pollinators of this species are not well documented. However, various flies, bees, and butterflies have been observed visiting the larger flowers of other Crypthantha species.

Flower Colour:

  • White

Flowering Season:

  • Spring

Flowering Months:

  • June
  • May

Canadian Rarity Status:

Protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and Saskatchewan’s provincial Wildlife Act, and is considered “at risk” in Alberta. The collection of wild plants and seeds is illegal on public lands.

Physical Appearance:

This annual has hairy, branched stems that grow 10 to 20 cm tall. Its alternate leaves are linear with a broad base, and up to 6 cm long, becoming smaller near the top of the stem. Numerous tiny, white flowers are arranged into several spike-shaped clusters. Each slender tube has a yellow centre, and is less than 2 mm wide, with lobes extending abruptly outwards. Each flower has sepals with bristly hairs and thick, whitish veins. The fruit is a small nut.

Similar Species:

Fendler's Cryptanthe (Cryptantha fendleri (Gray) Greene), Macoun's Oreocarya (Cryptantha macounii (Eastw.) Pays.)

Gardening Notes:

Do not purchase wild-collected seeds or plants. Seeds and/or plants from nursery-raised stock may be available.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • Saskatchewan

Prairie Types:

  • Mixed Grass Prairie


  • Disturbed Areas
  • Eroded Slopes
  • Prairies

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry
  • Moderate

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun

Soil Preference:

  • Sand
Tiny Cryptanthe