Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Ipecac - Euphorbia ipecacuanhae   L.
Members of Euphorbiaceae:
Members of Euphorbia with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Euphorbiales » Family Euphorbiaceae
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DistributionSandhills, Coastal Plain; also on the Outer Banks and barrier islands, where rare. Rare in the lower Piedmont.

Mostly Coastal Plain, southwestern CT and Long Island south to east-central GA.
AbundanceFrequent to generally common in the most favorable habitats (e.g., xeric sands) -- such as the Sandhills and parts of the Southern Coastal Plain; otherwise uncommon to infrequent in much of the remainder of the central and northern Coastal Plain.
HabitatXeric to dry Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass uplands, sandhills, Carolina bay rims, openings in other pine-oak woodlands, stable dune barrens.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting late February-May; later in response to fire. Formerly used by Native Americans as an emetic and laxative.
IdentificationAmerican Ipecac is a remarkable little plant and with highly variable stem and leaves. Below ground the rootstock penetrates deeply (RAB [1968] says "many feet"), whereas above ground there may be only a couple of small leaves hugging the sand or many leaves on a multi-branched stem as much as 8 inches long (along the ground). Leaves vary from plant to plant and even within one individual: linear, lance-shape, ovate, and even rotund; 1 inch to occasionally 4 inches long. The inflorescence is small and yellow-green, but conspicuous, owing to numerous flowers, always very close to the ground. This is the familiar decumbent, ground-hugging or sprawling "Euphorb" of sandy soil, often with glaucous blue-green leaves, and typically with quite a few variable leaf shapes on a single plant. The small yellowish flowers do attract attention, mainly because each plant can have 20 or more flowers.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Carolina Ipecac, Wild Ipecac. Oddly, no website or reference seems to use the word "Spurge" in its common name.
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieSGL, leaf variation. ScotlandPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSGL, leaf variation. ScotlandPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, xeric longleaf-wiregrass, May 2008. ScotlandPhoto_natural
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