Herbs, perennial, often ± woody at base; taproot long and ropelike, woody. Stems prostrate to decumbent, usually profusely branched throughout, 3-15 dm, minutely pubescent, often glandular, sometimes spreading villous or hirsute in basal portions, minutely pubescent, sometimes glandular, glabrate, or glabrous distally. Leaves usually distributed throughout plant and into much of inflorescence; larger leaves with petiole 5-25 mm, blade broadly lanceolate, ovate, or broadly ovate, occasionally ± round, 20-70 × 10-60 mm (distal leaves smaller, often proportionally narrower), base truncate, broadly cuneate, or round, rarely cordate, margins sinuate, apex acute to obtuse or round, adaxial surface glabrous or sometimes sparsely puberulent, rarely densely glandular-pubescent, abaxial surface paler than adaxial surface, glabrous or sometimes sparsely puberulent, rarely densely glandular-pubescent, often with large multicellular hairs along veins, neither surface punctate. Inflorescences axillary or terminal, forked unequally ca. 3-6 times, open, without sticky internodal bands; branches divergent, terminating in compact subumbellate or capitate 5-flowered clusters. Flowers: pedicel shorter than 0.5 mm; bract at base of perianth usually quickly deciduous, 1, linear-lanceolate to ovate, 0.5-1 mm; perianth maroon, or magenta (or rarely white or yellow) [pink], campanulate beyond constriction, 1-3.5 mm; stamens 2-3, slightly exserted. Fruits (2-)5-20(-30) per cluster, gray-brown to brown, narrowly obovate and tapering at both ends or clavate, 2.6-4 × 0.9-1.2 mm (l/w: 2.7-3.5), apex rounded to rounded-conic, moderately densely to densely stipitate-glandular on ribs and in sulci; ribs 5, rounded, smooth; sulci 1-2.5 times as wide as base of ribs, not rugose, not papillate. 2n = 52. Flowering spring-winter [year-round]. Roadsides, weedy areas, upper beaches, rocky slopes, gravelly outwash fans, arroyos in tropical scrub, arid grasslands, desert scrub, pinyon-juniper woodlands; 0-2000 m; Ala., Ariz., Calif., Fla., La., Md., Nev., N.Mex., N.C., S.C., Tex., Va.; Mexico; West Indies; Central America; South America; Eurasia; Africa; Australia. Boerhavia coccinea is weedy and probably adventive along the Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts in North America; it can be expected in waste areas anywhere in that region. Worldwide, it probably also has a broader range than indicated, particularly on oceanic islands. The complex, which is in need of taxonomic clarification, is extremely variable with regard to robustness, pubescence, and fruit number in individual terminal inflorescences. In the New World, flowers are usually some shade of deep wine red, although populations of white-flowered or yellow-flowered plants are rarely found (R. Spellenberg 2000). In the Old World, pink-flowered plants are frequent (C. Whitehouse 1996).
Wiggins 1964, FNA 2003, Kearney and Peebles 1969
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Decumbent or prostrate perennial, branching from base with many stout stems 30-140 cm long, viscid-pubescent and sometimes glandular-hirsute below, more or less glandular above, occasionally glabrate. Leaves: Opposite, 2-6 cm long, ovate-orbicular to oblong, rounded to acute at apex, green above, pale below, with a brown-punctate margin, glabrous to hirsute, often viscid. Flowers: Cymose, much branched, branches slender, glandular-pubescent, flowers in heads on slender peduncles, bracts minute, lanceolate; perianth purplish red, 2 mm long; stamens 1-3, barely exserted. Fruits: Obovoid, 2.5-3.5 mm long, densely glandular-puberulent with dark, blunt, usually gland-tipped hairs. Ecology: Found in sandy soil along drainages, washes, roadsides, disturbed areas; 7,000 ft (2134 m); flowers April-November. Distribution: Most of the southern US, from CA to VA; south to s MEX, and in S. Amer.; also in Africa; Asia and Australia. Notes: Distinguished as a robust perennial, often spreading and decumbent; the leaves are opposite with leaf pairs of unequal sizes, dark green with obvious sunk-in veins and wavy margins; the delicate branches and inflorescences are sticky-glandular and seeds and branches stick to your legs; the small flowers are dark red-magenta-purple, hence the specific epithet. This plant can take over areas, so it is identifiable often by the large patches. Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: Boerhavia is for Hermann Boerhaave (1663-1738) a Dutch botanist, while coccinea means scarlet or bright, deep pink. Synonyms: Boerhavia caribaea Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015