Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sandhills Wild-petunia - Ruellia ciliosa   Pursh
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Section 6 » Family Acanthaceae
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AuthorPursh
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.
AbundanceUncommon 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.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThough many references treat this as an odd form of R. caroliniensis, for some reason, 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" long and about 1-1.5" 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" long and about 1" 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
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