Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sandhills Wild-petunia - Ruellia ciliosa   Pursh
Members of Acanthaceae:
Members of Ruellia with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Acanthaceae
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DistributionLimited to the Sandhills region, from Richmond County east to Cumberland County.

This is a Southern species found from southern NC south to central FL and west to LA.
AbundanceRare to uncommon in the Sandhills Game Land in Richmond and Scotland counties, but rare eastward. This is a State Threatened species. The NCNHP database lists only about 12 records. Though technically this is an S2 species by number of records, in comparison with other widespread species given a rank of S2 by the NCNHP -- such as R. purshiana, the true State Rank is closer to S1S2.
HabitatThis species grows in the more mesic portions of pine/scrub oak sandhills. These mesic, loamy sites have a high diversity of herbaceous species, and they are not quite as xeric as the majority of the pinelands.
See also Habitat Account for Loamy, Fire-maintained Herblands
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThough many references treat this as an odd form of R. caroliniensis, this is a very different species in NC. It has a basal rosette of several very dark green to blackish-green leaves, each oblanceolate, about 3 inches long and about 1-1.5 inches wide, quite hispid. There is practically no stem, as the cluster of flowers normally arises from the base of the leaves. Each flower is similar to other Ruellia species, being lavender (paler on average than those of R. caroliniensis) to nearly white, about 1.5 inches long and about 1-inch across at the face. On a few plants, probably farther south in the range, there may be a short stem, a reason for so many references failing to give this interesting taxon full species status. At any rate, once you see this species, you will note its very strange look, with flowers practically emanating from the ground!
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2018) and many references consider this as a good species, whereas NatureServe still balks at doing so -- it treats it incorrectly as R. caroliniensis ssp. ciliosa; subspecies are supposed to have allopatric (non-overlapping) ranges, and these two clearly overlap.

Other Common Name(s)Ciliate Wild-petunia
State RankS2 [S1S2]
Global RankG5T3T5 [G3G5]
State StatusT
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
David AumanLongleaf-wiregrass at Girl Scout camp, late July 2022. RichmondPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieScotland County, 2016, Sandhills Game Land, loamy sand flat. RichmondPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieRichmond County, 2015, Sandhills Game Land, loamy sand flat. RichmondPhoto_natural

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