Froelichia gracilis (Hook.) Moq.

Slender Snake-Cotton

Froelichia gracilis plant

Family - Amaranthaceae

Stems - To 60cm tall, from taproot, branching at base, ascending or slightly procumbent, herbaceous, erect, arachnoid pubescent.

Froelichia gracilis stem

Leaves - Opposite, sessile, mostly at base of plant, linear-oblong, entire, arachnoid pubescent below, sericeous above (the hairs swollen basally), acute, to +7cm long, -1cm broad.

Froelichia gracilis plant

Inflorescence - Terminal and lateral spikes. Lateral spikes sessile. Bracts subtending flowers densely lanate, pinkish-tinged at apex.

Froelichia gracilis inflorescence

Flowers - Apetalous. Calyx tubular, 5-lobed, pinkish-tinged, densely lanate, 2.2mm long(in flower). Stamens 5, included. Filaments connate and forming a tube. Anthers yellow, .2-.3mm long. Ovary and style compressed. Ovary ovoid-rotund. Style scarious-green, .4mm long. Stigma capitate, globose. Fruiting calyx to +3mm long, with 2 rows of spines. Urticle with a single spine.

Froelichia gracilis flowersFlowers.

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Glades, sandy open ground, streambanks, gravel bars, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - Most plants from the Amaranthaceae have flowers which are very difficult to decipher without a good scope or lens. The flower parts are very small and typically indistinct. F. gracilis is no exception, but it is, however, easy to ID in the field because of its basally branching habit and wooly-arachnoid stems and flowers. Another species, F. floridana (Nutt.) Moq. is found in Missouri and the two species hybridize. F. floridana has thicker stems, broader leaves, and doesn't typically branch at the base. Both species can be found in many scattered counties throughout Missouri.
F. gracilis is found in quantity on the gravel bars in the Ozarks. The spiny fruits can be the cause of much discomfort for sandal-wearers in the area.

Photographs taken at Logan Creek, Reynolds County, MO., 6-29-03.