Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Rafinesque's Seedbox - Ludwigia hirtella   Rafinesque
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Section 6 » Order Myrtales » Family Onagraceae
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AuthorRafinesque
DistributionNearly throughout the Coastal Plain, including the Sandhills region. However, absent from most of the northeastern counties that flank the Sounds. Essentially absent west of the Fall Line, except for an isolated collection from Henderson County in the Mountains.

This is primarily a Coastal Plain species, from NJ south to the FL Panhandle and eastern TX; disjunct inland into KY and TN, and thus there are scattered far inland records for the species.
AbundanceFairly common to locally common in well-managed Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) habitats, mainly in the southern portions from Carteret to Richmond counties. Away from such pine stands, it is generally uncommon to infrequent.
HabitatThis is a classic pine savanna species, also growing in wet pine flatwoods and powerline clearings that mimic a savanna. It can also grow in ditches, and in bogs in the mountains.
PhenologyBlooms from June to September, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is one of the relatively few showy species of Ludwigia, and is one of three similar species that grow mainly in the state's pine savannas. It is erect, unbranched to sparsely branched, growing to about 2 feet tall, with a distinctly hairy stem and leaves. The widely scattered stem leaves are alternate, sessile, lanceolate, ascending, and about 2 inches long and 1/2-inch wide, rounded at both ends and entire on the margins. The flowers, in middle and upper axils, are conspicuous, have 4 bright yellow petals, rounded, with the spread flower about 1-inch across. It is always a good idea to check the sepals and capsule of Ludwigia species, and this species has quite hairy sepals, and they are narrowly triangular and about 2/5-inch long, spreading (as opposed to reflexed backwards). The other two conspicuous savanna species -- L. virgata and L. maritima -- both have sepals that are strongly reflexed. In addition, L. virgata is clearly a smooth species overall, whereas L. maritima is pubescent overall but has ovate (rounded) sepals. You will discover that this species and L. virgata are reasonably frequent in savannas, but that L. maritima is scarce and may require much searching (and it does not range to the Sandhills).
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Spindleroot. Nearly all websites use Spindleroot for the common name, but this is highly idiosyncratic, implying no relationship to other species. Weakley (2018), Sorrie (2011), and the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora website give Rafinesque's Seedbox as a common name, in order to use a common name with "Seedbox" as part of the name, as it is so clearly a seedbox, in every sense of the word. This website deviates from popular usage to provide a "better" common name, using the name of the author who described the species long ago. NatureServe's name of Hairy Ludwigia is poor in that L. pilosa is usually named as Hairy Seedbox.
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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