Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Mercury Spurge - Euphorbia mercurialina   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Euphorbiales » Family Euphorbiaceae
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AuthorMichaux
DistributionSoutheastern Piedmont, primarily, but also a record in the Mountains (Swain County). So far known only from Anson, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, and Swain counties. A report from Granville County (NCNHP) is suspect and needs checking. Discovered in NC in 1992 by one of the website editors (LeGrand). The Swain specimen was collected in 1963 (!) but was misfiled under E. marginata at SERNEC and only found in 2020.

Primarily west of the main Appalachian chain in KY, TN, AL, and northwestern GA; oddly disjunct several hundred miles to south-central NC.
AbundanceDespite being first "knowingly" found in NC only in 1992 (though actually first collected nearly 30 years beforehand), there are now 18 sites in the NCNHP database, in just four Piedmont counties. Thus, uncommon and somewhat local in this region, generally close to the Pee Dee River and tributaries; a few populations may contain numerous plants. This is a State Special Concern species.
HabitatRich to mesic slopes under hardwoods (oak-hickory-Hop Hornbeam) and Loblolly Pine-hardwoods. Some sites are in rather rocky and dry-mesic forests. Mostly in gabbro substrates, but in Moore County (Big Governor's Creek) on some other mafic type; definitely in circumneutral soils. The Swain Co. record is from "rich woods" without any locality data.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Dry-Mesic Hardwood Forests
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting April-June.
IdentificationCumberland Spurge is readily identified by its upright stem usually a foot or less tall, few but strongly ascending branches, and widely elliptical leaves up to 2.5 inches long, rounded at the tip (the Swain Co. specimen leaves are short-tapered). Leaves on the main stem are alternate, those on branches and inflorescence are opposite and sometimes whorled. The relatively few flowers are on long stalks, often nearly 1 inch long; each flower has short but wide white glandular appendages (resembling petals) -- looking like a narrow white ring surrounding the yellow-green reproductive parts. The species was possibly overlooked in the past as E. pubentissima, if not E. corollata; then again, it is possible (but not likely) that no botanist ever encountered this scarce species on the slopes in this part of the state.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Cumberland Spurge
State RankS2
Global RankG4
State StatusSC-V
US Status
USACE-agcp
USACE-emp
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B.A. SorrieRichmond County, 2000, Pee Dee Gabbro Slopes, N of US 74. RichmondPhoto_natural

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