Phyllanthus caroliniensis Walter

Carolina Leaf-Flower


CC = 5
CW = 0
MOC = 42

© DETenaglia

Family - Euphorbiaceae

Habit - Fibrous-rooted monoecious annual forb.

Stems - Arched to ascending, to 40 cm, solitary, with few to several spreading to loosely ascending branches, the branches arranged in 2 ranks.

Leaves - Alternate, simple, entire, short-petiolate, 2 ranked, giving the plant a flattened appearance. Blades 6-25 mm long, oval to obovate, rounded at the tip, both surfaces green, glabrous. Stipules 1-2 mm long, scalelike, usually uniformly tan to reddish brown at maturity.

Phyllanthus_caroliniensis_leaves2.jpg Stem and leaves (underside).

© SRTurner

Phyllanthus_caroliniensis_leaf2.jpg Leaves abaxial.

© SRTurner

Phyllanthus_caroliniensis_leaves.jpg Pressed leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Axillary clusters with 1 staminate and often 1-3 pistillate flowers. Staminate flowers often concentrated toward stem tips.

Phyllanthus_caroliniensis_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces deeply 6-lobed, those of the staminate flowers 0.5-0.7 mm long, those of the pistillate flowers 0.8-1.5 mm long at flowering, the lobes narrowly oblong, usually with a yellowish green central stripe and white margins, rounded at the tip, persistent at fruiting. Petals absent. Nectar disc with 6-lobes, these broadly rounded at the tip. Staminate flowers with 3 free stamens. Pistillate flowers with the ovary 3-locular and 2 ovules per locule, the 3 styles separate or nearly so, each deeply 2-lobed, each lobe slightly broadened into an inconspicuous terminal stigma.

Phyllanthus_caroliniensis_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner


© DETenaglia

Fruits - Fruits depressed-globose, 1.5-2.0 mm in diameter. Seeds 0.8-1.1 mm long, gray to reddish brown.

Phyllanthus_caroliniensis_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Streambanks, pond margins, sloughs, bottomland forests, ravines, moist swales, fields, moist, disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to U.S., Central and South America.

Lookalikes - P. polygonoides.

Other info. - This little species is common in the Mississippi Lowlands division of Missouri, and scattered in other locations in the state, mostly south of the Missouri River, and in the eastern quadrant of the continental U.S. It is easily identified by its unique planar appearance, with alternate branches having leaves which are typically much smaller than main stem leaves. Confirmation is provided by the axillary flowers and leaves. These are small and, being located mostly underneath the plant, not usually readily visible from above.

The species is commonly subdivided into two infraspecific forms. Missouri's plants belong to ssp. caroliniensis. The other, ssp. saxicola, is found in the southern tip of Florida.

Photographs taken off Lee Rd 54, Lee County, AL., 8-26-04 (DETenaglia); also near Neelyville, Ripley County, MO, 8-27-2015, and at Catawissa Conservation Area, Franklin County, MO, 9-10-2017 (SRTurner).