Pineland Threeseed Mercury

This plant, one of the more recent additions to the Vascular Flora of the Domain (it was first collected in October 2010), gave us a lot of trouble when we discovered it growing outside of the Woods Lab greenhouse the other day. It has a unique flower structure, lacking both petals and sepals, and is monoecious, with male and female flowers separated on each plant. Also very particular to this plant is a specialized seed structure, an elaisome, or caruncle, that attracts the ants that disperse the seeds. These characteristics along with arrangement of carpels in sets of three eventually helped us narrow down the possibilities of what the plant could be, and once we realized that what we were looking at was in the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family, we soon pinpointed it as Acalypha ostryifolia. While it is often considered a weed, the challenge of identifying it and the peculiarity of its flower made me glad to have this plant around.


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