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Virginia threeseed mercury (Acalypha virginica)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMON NAMES:

Virginia threeseed mercury

three-seeded mercury

mercury weed

copper-leaf

 

SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS:

Acalypha rhomboidea Ref.

Acalypha urticifolia Raf.

Acalypha virginica L. forma intermedia Millsp.

Acalypha virginica L. var. rhombifolia Riddell,

Acalypha virginica L. var. rhomboidea (Raf.) Cooperr

 

TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for Virginia threeseed is Acalypha virginica L.

 

In the past, rhomboid mercury (Acalypha rhomboidea) and Deam's mercury (Acalypha deamii) were considered varieties of Virginia mercury, but they are now regarded as distinct species.

 

NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States.

 

GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:

 

Habit: Virginia threeseed is a summer annual that grows to 3 feet tall. Stem is erect, branched at base, reddened and finely pubescent.

 

Leaves: Virginia threeseed leaves are lanceolate in shape, 3/4 - 3 inches long, petiolated with the upper leaves alternate and lower leaves opposite. Petioles are arched up to 1 cm., usually erect, endticulate. The basal leaves alternate. Youngest leaves develop a distinct copper coloration.

 

Flowers: Flowers monoecious; the sterile very small, clustered in spikes; the few or solitary fertile flowers at the base of the same spikes, or sometimes in separate ones. The male flowers above with 8-16 stamens, the female basal at the axil of a fan-like bract divided into 5-9 digitate lobes. Calyx of the sterile flowers 4-parted and valvate in bud; of the fertile, 3-5-parted. Styles 3, the upper face or stigmas cut-fringed (usually red). Flowers are green in color.

 

Fruit/Seed: Capsule separating into 3 globular 2-valved carpels, rarely of only one carpel. Seed ellipsoid, smooth; caruncle small.

 

Roots: Virginia threeseed has a taproot with a secondary fibrous root system.

 

REGENERATION PROCESS: Virginia threeseed propogates itself by reseeding.
 

HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include disturbed open woodlands, rocky woodlands, thinly wooded bluffs, woodland borders, thickets, disturbed areas of prairies and weedy meadows, partially-shaded gravelly seeps and gravel bars, acid gravel seeps, cropland and abandoned fields, areas along railroads and roadsides, flower gardens underneath trees, agri-

cultural fields, croplands, and successional fields, and areas adjacent to the foundations of buildings.

 

SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Virginia threeseed prefers sun to partial sun, and dry, dry-mesic, and mesic soils.

 

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-summer into the fall and lasts about 2-3 months.

 

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Virginia threeseed naturally occurs from Georgia to Maine, and extends west to Texas and then north to South Dakota. It does naturally occur in Canada.

 

SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.

 

IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flea beetles Hornaltica bicolorata and Margaridisa atriventris feed on Acalypha spp. The mourning dove, swamp sparrow, and possibly other birds eat the seeds, while white-tailed deer browse on the foliage, primarily during the summer and fall. Virginia mercury lacks the toxic white latex that is a typical character-istic of other species in the Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae).
 

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.

 

 

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