The Unusual Symmetry of Facelis retusa (Trampweed)

In some respects Facelis retusa, known as Trampweed, is a typical weed: a non-native, broadleaf winter annual that came to us from South America.  The term “weed” typically carries with it the connotation of a sprawling, undisciplined, rank and irregular plant.  But Facelis retusa is an exception to the majority, having a highly organized and regular growth form and pattern.

As seen in the photo below, seedling Trampweeds are about an inch across and have the regular,  pinwheel or pinecone shape that they retain until they bloom.  The leaves are short and blunt,  are wider at the tip than at the base, and end in a sharp point.  Trampweeds are also floccose, a botanical term meaning covered with tufts of white, wooly hairs – illustrated below.

Facelis retusa Trampweed Seedling Plant

Facelis retusa
Trampweed
Seedling Plant

Trampweeds often grow in clusters and tend to form colonies that merge into each other.

Facelis retusa Trampweed Multiple Plants

Facelis retusa
Trampweed
Multiple Plants

Below is a larger plant formed by the growth and branching  of at least two individual plants.

Facelis retusa Trampweed Continued Growth and Branching

Facelis retusa
Trampweed
Continued Growth and Branching

Colonies continue to grow and branch, and will eventually merge together into mats 3 or 4 feet across if left undisturbed.

Facelis retusa Trampweed Spreading Growth

Facelis retusa
Trampweed
Spreading Growth

Horticultural sedums sometimes have a similar form, making it difficult to recognize that invading Trampweeds are present.   A garden sedum is shown below.

Horticultural Sedum

Horticultural Sedum

Facelis retusa is a member of the aster family, the Asteraceae, and has flowers typical of many members of  that family.   The flower petals (the ray flowers) are absent, so the plants have only the disk flowers, which are small and delicate and resemble miniature paint brushes.  After the bloom the tiny seeds (achenes), attached to fine hairs, blow away in the breeze.  Tufts of fine, cottony hair can be seen on the ground around plants that are discharging seeds.

Facelis retusa Trampweed Flowering

Facelis retusa
Trampweed
Flowering

Trampweeds are very common in the Falls Lake area. All of the photographs were taken at the Falls Lake Dam, overlooking Falls Lake, or in the nearby area.     In an odd anomaly, distribution maps do not list Facelis retusa  in any of the Falls Lake counties or the counties surrounding them.  The best explanation for this may simply be a lack of interest;  no impetus to trigger the documentation of a new county plant.

Herb Amyx

 

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