Phryma leptostachya L.

Phryma leptostachya plant

Family - Verbenaceae

Stems - To +50cm tall, simple or branching in inflorescence, retrorse pubescent, erect, sub-hollow, 4-angled (the angles rounded), purplish, with swollen purple areas on stem above each node.

Leaves - Opposite, decussate, petiolate. Petioles to 4cm long, antrorse pubescent, reduced above. Blades ovate to lance-ovate, acute to acuminate, truncate to rounded at base (the tissue abruptly contracted and then decurrent on petiole to form minute wing to .5mm broad), coarse crenate -serrate, pubescent, to +10cm long, +6cm broad. Blades near base of plant smaller and broadly ovate.

Phryma leptostachya leaves

Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary spikiform racemes. Flowers decussate and spreading at anthesis, quickly reflexing in fruit. Pedunle purple, pubescent, 4-angled, purple. Each flower subtended by linear bract to 1.5mm long. Flowers on very short pedicels to .3mm long.

Phryma leptostachya inflorescenceInflorescence with reflexed fruits and spreading flowers.

Flowers - Corolla bilabiate, whitish internally, often pinkish to purplish tinged externally. Corolla tube to 3.1mm long, glabrous externally. Upper lip purplish externally, emarginate to shallowly 2-lobed, 2.5-3mm broad, 2.5mm long. Lower lip 3-lobed, 4.5mm broad, 4mm long, pubescent at apex of throat. Stamens 4, didynamous, adnate near apex of corolla tube, included. Filaments white, glabrous, to 2.1mm long. Anthers pale yellow, .2mm long. Style 3mm long, glabrous, white, included. Ovary superior, green, terete, 1.3mm long, unilocular, with 1 ovule. Calyx accrescent, strongly ribbed in fruit, 2.2mm long, glabrous or sparse pubescent, bilabiate. Upper lip 3-lobed. Lobes to 2.3mm long, linear, purple. Lower lip with 2 shallow lobes. Lobes acute, to .5mm long, pubescent. Fruit an achene to 4mm long, tan.

Phryma leptostachya flower

Phryma leptostachya flower

Flowering - June - September.

Habitat - Rich woods, slopes, ravines, moist thickets.

Origin - Native to U.S and Asia.

Other info. - This is probably one of the easiest plants to identify in the field. Nothing else growing in the state looks like it. The purplish stems, drooping fruits, and tiny whitish flowers with the distinctive calyx are all good characteristics for identifying the species. Our plants belong to variety leptostachya. Another variety, var. confertifolia Fern., ranges in the eastern U.S. and is not found in our range. This latter variety has more densely pubescent stems and leaves, and the leaves are strictly crenate.
Some authors divide the plant into its own family, the Phrymaceae.

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., and in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Shannon County, MO., 7-9-03.