Rhexia mariana L.

Meadow Beauty


CC = Amb
CW = -5
MOC = 15

© SRTurner

Family - Melastomataceae

Habit - Rhizomatous perennial forb, sometimes woody at the base, these sometimes shallow and stolon-like.

Stem - Ascending to erect, to 1 m, 4-angled, sometimes appearing nearly circular in cross-section, the angles not or inconspicuously winged, the wings less than 0.25 mm wide, sparsely to moderately glandular-hairy, especially at the nodes.

Rhexia_mariana_stem.jpg Stem and node.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Opposite, simple, sessile or short-petiolate. Blades 2-8 cm long, narrowly lanceolate to ovate, becoming narrowly lanceolate toward the stem tip, sharply pointed, glabrous or more commonly sparsely to moderately glandular-hairy, the margins sharply and finely toothed, the teeth often hair-tipped.

Rhexia_mariana_leaves.jpg Stem and leaves.

© SRTurner

Rhexia_mariana_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Rhexia_mariana_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Usually appearing as small panicles, with small loose clusters subtended by small leaflike bracts at the nodes (these often shed by fruiting).

Rhexia_mariana_hypanthium.jpg Hypanthium.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Perfect, with the perianth actinomorphic and the stamens and to some extent the pistil zygomorphic. Hypanthium tubular at flowering, persistent and becoming urn-shaped as the fruit matures, extended past the ovary as a short necklike tube, glabrous to moderately glandular-hairy. Calyces of 4 free lobelike sepals at the hypanthium tip, these 2-4 mm long, triangular, sharply pointed at the tip, persistent at fruiting. Corollas of 4 free petals, these 12-18 mm long, spreading, glabrous or nearly so, usually broadly obovate, rounded, pink to rose-purple. Stamens 8, strongly exserted at flowering, subequal in size, S-shaped and curved downward, the anthers 5-8 mm long, attached just above their bases, strongly curved outward, yellow, dehiscing by terminal pores. Pistil of 4 fused carpels, inferior (but often appearing superior at fruiting). Ovary 4-locular, the placentation axile. Style 1 per flower, somewhat curved downward, about as long as the stamens, the stigma depressed-capitate to somewhat disc-shaped, entire or nearly so. Ovules numerous.

Rhexia_mariana_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© DETenaglia

Rhexia_mariana_stamens.jpg Stamens.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Capsules, urn-shaped with the neck usually longer than the body, 6-12 mm long. Seeds numerous, 0.4-0.7 mm long, flattened and spiral-shaped (snail-shell-shaped), the surface brown, with several concentric, spiral ridges along the sides and especially along the keel, these varying from smooth to warty or tubercled.

Rhexia_mariana_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Sandy streambanks, depressions in sand prairies and sandstone glades, pond margins, forest openings, moist sandy disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - R. virginica.

Other info. - This attractive species is uncommon in Missouri, found in a few southern counties. Its range in North America is largely confined to the southeastern quadrant of the continental U.S., with some widely scattered populations as far north as Michigan and New York. The flowers of this species and its sibling (R. virginica) are unmistakable, with their long, yellow, banana-like anthers presenting an interesting visual contrast with the four pink petals.

The species is usually subdivided into three varieties, two of which occur in Missouri. The var. mariana, shown in the photos above, is characterized by stems which are bluntly and unequally 4-angled, having two convex and two concave sides, and by flower petals which are glabrous. This variety is found in the southeastern corner of the state. The other form, var. interior, has sharp angles and equivalent faces on the stems, and flower petals which are sparsely glandular-hairy on the outer surface. This variety is found in the southwest corner of the state.

Meadow beauties form dense and attractive stands. They grow well under cultivation, provided a moist sandy location is available, and deserve to be more widely planted. The persistent urn-shaped hypanthia are attractive in their own right, and are sometimes used in dried floral arrangements.

Photographs taken near Benton, Scott County, MO, 8-28-2015, and at the Edgar W. Schmidt Sand Prairie, Scott County, MO, 8-08-2022 (SRTurner).