Dioecious, apetalous annual; stems to 1 m, sparingly branched chiefly above; lvs oblong-linear to lance-oblong, 2-8 cm, obtuse or abruptly acute, rounded to obtuse at base; staminate plants commonly with very numerous fls, the sep 5, the stamens 8-12; pistillate plants usually stouter, with fewer fls, the styles 3, each divided nearly to the base into 4 or more branches; fr 3-locular. Dry prairies; S.D. and Wyo. to Okla., Tex., and Ariz., and often adventive in the w. part of our range, especially along railroads.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Wiggins 1964, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Allred and Ivey 2012, Heil et al. 2013
Duration: Annual Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Malodorous annual herbs, 20-80 cm tall, from a taproot; stems erect, often branching, the branches ascending; herbage covered with stellate pubescence that gives the plant a yellowish or grayish cast. Leaves: Alternate along the stems and branches, on slender petioles, 2-20 mm long; blades linear, lanceolate, or ovate-lanceolate, 1-5 cm long and 5-15 mm wide, with entire margins; upper leaf surface green or yellow-green, with scattered stellate hairs that rarely overlap; lower leaf surface densely covered with stellate hairs and more or less cinereous (ash-colored due to the hairs), especially on young growth. Flowers: Male and female flowers on separate plants (plants monoecious); staminate (male) flowers in clusters in leaf axils and at branch tips, each male flower with 3 sepals 1-2 mm long, no petals, and 8-12 stamens; pistillate (female) flowers in clusters of 1-4 in leaf axils and at branch tips, each female flower with 3 small sepals, no petals, and a pubescent ovary topped with 3 many-branched styles. Fruits: Capsule distinctly 3-celled, ovoid-globose, 4-6 mm tall, stellate-scurfy; containing 1-3 seeds, each 4 mm long. Ecology: Found in sandy and disturbed sites such as roadsides, fields, ditch banks, washes, and along arroyos, from 500-7,000 ft (152-2134 m); flowers May-November. Distribution: c US, west to WY, UT, AZ, NM and TX; south to n MEX. Notes: The growth form, degree of hairiness, and leaf shape and size are quite variable in this species. Look for an upright, branched annual with oblong leaves; the stems and leaves hairy with a yellowish to grayish cast, all the hairs stellate (use your hand lens); clusters of small, inconspicuous flowers in the leaf axils and at branch tips; and on the female plants, flowers mature into 3-chambered seed pods about one-half cm tall. C. lindheimeranus is similar but much less common, occurring occasionally on limestone in central and southern Arizona and southern New Mexico. The two species are difficult to tell apart based on field characteristics, so make a collection of you're not sure. The main differences can be seen under magnification; C. texensis has 3 much-branched styles, and no petals on the male flowers, while C. lindheimeranus has 3 bifid styles, and the male flowers have petals. Ethnobotany: The Hopis used it as an emetic and an eyewash; Various other tribes used it as a a purgative and to relieve gastrointestinal distress. Etymology: Croton comes from Greek word kroton, meaning a tick, because of the appearance of the seeds.; texensis means from texas. Editor: SBuckley 2010, AHazelton 2017
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