Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Lopseed - Phryma leptostachya   L.
Members of Phrymaceae:
Only member of Phryma in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Lamiales » Family Phrymaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Mountains and Piedmont; present over most of the Coastal Plain, but of spotty occurrence in the southern half and near the northeastern coast.

This is a very wide-ranging species across nearly all of eastern North America; it occurs south to northern FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceCommon across the Mountains and Piedmont; infrequent to fairly common in the northern Coastal Plain, except very rare to absent near the coast. In the southern Coastal Plain, generally rare to locally absent; absent in the Sandhills.
HabitatThis species occurs in moist to rich forests, though not necessarily in high pH soils. It occurs mostly on lower forested slopes in Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests, but it can occur in Rich Cove Forests, Basic Mesic Forests, and bottomland forests. However, in the Coastal Plain it does tend to occur only over higher pH soils, and near the coast it grows mostly in forests over marl rock.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis species was formerly in is own genus and family, but several other species have been moved into the Family Phrymaceae. At any rate, this is a unique species in the U.S., as it has very odd fruit. In leaf, it is a medium-sized herb, growing to 1.5 feet tall. It has a 4-angled stem, with only a few pairs of opposite leaves. Each leaf is ovate, about 4 inches long and about 2 inches wide, serrate, and with a short petiole; the base is somewhat truncate (squared off). Normally, each pair of leaves is at right angles to the pair above and below it, so that the leaves are not stacked on top or another. The top 6-10 inches of the stem contains the very slender inflorescence, essentially a "naked" spike, with 10 or more pairs of small and narrow tubular flowers opposite another. Each is white or with a pinkish tinge, about 1/4-inch long, bilaterally symmetrical (with a long lower lip) and held distinctively horizontal. Shortly after a flower is finished, it droops downward and essentially "clasps" the stem! Thus, the fruit has "lopped", giving rise to the common name. Though quite a few other species have similar fairly broadly ovate opposite leaves, making it tricky to identify by many biologists at that stage, when in bloom or fruit it is unmistakable. Quite a few rich hardwood slopes in the mountains and Piedmont contain a colony or two of this species, and it does indeed often grow in sizable stands as opposed to just a few scattered individuals.
Taxonomic CommentsSome references assign varieties to the species, but Weakley (2018) does not.

Other Common Name(s)Lopseed
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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