Betony-Leaf Noseburn, Betonyleaf Noseburn, Noseburn
Tragia betonicifolia Nutt. is the accepted scientific name for this species. It was named and described by Thomas Nuttall in Transactions of the American Philosophical Soiety in 1835.
The genus, Tragia Plum. ex L., was described by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. He gives credit to the French botanist Charles Plumier for first naming and describing the species.
As of 2-18-23 when this page was written, Plants of the World Online lists 155 species in the Tragia genus. It is a member of the plant family Euphorbiaceae with 227 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
The above distribution map for Tragia betonicifolia is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green is where the species is native. The map on the USDA Plants Database shows fewer states… POWO gets its data from Flora of North America and USDA gets theirs from The Biota of North America Program (BONAP).
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations. I post all my observations on iNaturalist.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING. THEY CAN HELP WITH A POSITIVE ID.
I was wildflower hunting in the main hayfield/pasture on June 26 in 2022 when I stumbled upon a plant I hadn’t seen before. I took several photos and uploaded them on iNaturalist to see what they had to say. I cross referenced the ID on the Missouri Plants website and came to the conclusion this plant is Tragia betonicifolia, otherwise known as Betony-Leaf Noseburn. The iNaturalist website is a great source and normally I can find the correct ID in one of their top three suggestions, and most of the time it is the first one. Well, this wasn’t one of those times, but their top two pointed me in the right direction which is why I rely 100% on the Missouri Plants website for proper ID. After all, I live in Missouri. Then to make sure the name I found is up to date, I go to Plants of the World Online. A lot of scientific names have changed in the past 10 years and it isn’t over yet.
Of course, I had no idea what it was when I was handling the plant while I was taking photos. If I had have known, I would have been a little more careful. It has stinging hairs that are said to cause intense pain. One website said “as much pain as you could ever have.” When I read that, I was reminded of my kidney stones.
Tragia betonicifolia is a monoecious perennial plant in the plant family Euphorbiaceae. Like other members in the family, it it has weird and hard to explain flowers. This species prefers growing in fairly sandy to rocky soil in prairies, pastures, forest openings, clearings, along roadsides and railroads. It can be somewhat difficult to see among taller grass during the summer when everything is green…
Plants can grow to 30” or so tall, but that become rather sprawly. One to several stems are produced from a short caudex and may produce several branches that may twine around each other. The stems have both stinging and non-stinging hairs.
The leaves grow in an alternate fashion along the stems are are spaced 1/2” to 2” apart. The leaf shape is said to be lanceolate to broadly lanceolate in outline with cordate (heart-shaped) bases and normally a sharply pointed tip. The leaves have short petioles that are angled upward, but the leaves are angled downward due to the arch in the midribs. The margins have rounded to sharply pointed teeth with hairs sticking out where the pinnate veins terminate.
The upper leaf surface is medium green while the undersurface is somewhat duller. Both surfaces have non stinging and stinging hairs. The hairs on the upper surface shorter and somewhat appressed, while those of the undersurface are longer and more dense along the veins. A pair of lanceolate stipules can be found at the base of the leaf petioles, but they turn dry and fall off during the growing season.
I have written a lot of descriptions, for me anyway, and the flowers of members of the family Euphorbiaceae are the most difficult.
Tragia species are monoecious and produce separate staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers on the same plant but in an odd sort of way. Unlike members of the Asteraceae, for example, which produce male and female flowers on the same flower. Tragia species produce 1-2 pistillate flower at the base of the inflorescence (floral stem), then a raceme of 14- 75 staminate flowers. How many depends on how long the plant has been growing and how long they can continue to produce flowers.
Ummm… They don’t just produce flowers at the top of the main stem… They can occur at leaf nodes along the stems and branches opposite the leaves. All I can say is I need more photos!
The above photo shows a growing ovary which becomes the fruit. You can kind of see the pistillate flower with three fused styles and an a spreading stigma. The flowers are surrounded by a green calyx with 3-5 lobes. Of course, everything is hairy…
The above photo was taken of a different inflorescence where you can see the fuzzy fruit that has started to develop from the ovary of the pistillate flower. Well, of course, the ovary becomes the fruit which then becomes the seed capsule. The ovaries usually have 3-locule (cells) with one ovule each. Above the fruit, you can see the remains of a few staminate flowers. There were more staminate flowers at the top of the inflorescence but those photos were all blurry…
I intended to take more photos of this plant, but likely I had several days of photos to go through and pick out the best. By the time I realized I needed more photos the hay was cut along with this plant. Hopefully, since it is a perennial, it will come back in 2023. If it does, then I hope I can find it again.
There isn’t much online about this species, but the websites Missouri Plants and Arkansas Native Plant Society are both great. They both have great photos and descriptions. Missouri Plants has a glossary of terms which is also very helpful.
I live on the family farm in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street, and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 250 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be variable from location to location, so that can be a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF MISSOURI (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF NORTH AMERICA (GENUS/SPECIES)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
ARKANSAS NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY
KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂