Host and Guests – Ludwigia
I have a goal to identify all the species living on our farm. The pond plants in particular have been a problem for me, because a lot of them look similar. And even though I own a lot of special interest field guides, on things like toxic plants, aquatic plants, and weeds of the Texas rangelands, I haven’t been able to find them in those books.
A few weeks ago, I started making a concerted effort to identify this one — it sprouts up in new locations each year, it grows to about five feet tall, it has willow-like leaves, and small yellow flowers about one inch across. Its most iconic feature is long thin seed tubes.
Somewhere in the past I had gotten the idea that this was called Mexican seedbox, but online information didn’t match exactly with what I was seeing. Features that I would expect to be consistent, weren’t. Most of the time the flowers had six or seven petals; but often only four. And I noticed two different shapes and sizes of the seed boxes — one was about two inches long and very thin; the other was about an inch long and squattier. I’m no scientist, so I didn’t even know if plants could do that, but to me it seemed as strange as if cucumbers and peppers were growing on the same plant.
Finally I realized that two closely-related plants are growing intertwined with each other! Once I started looking more closely, I realized that the second one has graceful, flexible stems, that allowed it to sort of blend in with the taller, stalkier plant.
Finally I found this very descriptive post which leads me to believe that the tall shrubby plant is anglestem primrose-willow, Ludwigia leptocarpa. It could be Mexican primrose-willow, Ludwigia octovalvis, described here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site — but the plant growing here has hairy stems and six to seven petals, which fits the leptocarpa profile. But I am not sure.
The second one could be cylindricfruit primrose-willow, Ludwigia glandulosa Walter, or possibly another one from a long list at the USDA (I can’t link to the search results there). Going through that list, I saw a picture of Ludwigia alternifolia, and realized that plant grows here also, so that makes three! No wonder I was confused.
So for weeks I have been looking online for information, then going out to check the plants for matching features, then reading again, then checking again — and during that time I have seen so many creatures living on the Ludwigia species. I have really enjoyed checking them a few times a day, and even at night, to see what I can find.
And then that leads to more rounds of identity-checking, but for insects instead of plants. You can click on the pictures to see a larger image.
I have really enjoyed my daily check-ins with these plants!