Cocculus carolinus (L.) DC.

Carolina Moonseed, Carolina Snailseed

Cocculus carolinus plant

Family - Menispermaceae

Habit - Perennial vine, often woody toward the base, lacking tendrils or spines, dioecious.

Stems - Vining, to 5 m.

Cocculus carolinus stemStem.

Leaves - Alternate, simple, petiolate, not peltate. Blades 4-15 cm long, 3.0-8.5 cm wide, triangular or ovate-cordate in outline, undivided or shallowly 3- or 5-lobed, with 5 main veins from the base, the upper surface glabrous or sparsely to densely hairy, the undersurface sparsely to densely hairy, the base truncate to moderately cordate, rounded to bluntly pointed at the tip or the tips of the lobes, usually mucronate.

Cocculus carolinus leavesPressed leaves.

Inflorescence - Axillary racemes or panicles, to 12 cm long.

Flowers - Actinomorphic, hypogynous, lacking bractlets. Sepals usually 6, 1.5-2.5 mm long, free. Petals 6, free, relatively inconspicuous, white. Staminate flowers with the stamens usually 6, free and distinct, the anthers 4-locular and opening by longitudinal slits. Pistillate flowers with 6 separate pistils, each with 1 locule, the placentation marginal. Style 1 per pistil, short.

Cocculus carolinus flowerFlower.

Fruits - Globose 1-seeded drupes, 5-8 mm long, red at maturity, the endocarp discoid, the rim and thickened margin transversely ridged, both sides concave.

Cocculus carolinus fruitsDeveloping fruits.

Flowering - July - August.

Habitat - Forests, swamps, upland prairies, glades, bluffs, streambanks, old fields, fencerows.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - Calycocarpum lyonii, Menispermum canadense, some species of Smilax.

Other info. - This interesting species can be found mainly in the southern 1/3 of Missouri. Its U.S. range is largely within the southeastern quadrant. The plant can be identified by its leaves, which have petioles attached at the margins, and red fruits containing a stone resembling a snail or 3/4 moon.

Photographs taken along the shores of the Current River, Shannon County, MO., 7-24-04.