Annual or perennial herbs or shrubby plants, with firm or succulent tissues. Leaves opposite, entire or often toothed. Flowers mostly dioecious, apetalous. Staminate flowers in more or less elongated spikes or racemes, the calyx membranous, of 3 valvate sepals; stamens 8-20; filaments distinct; anthers opening lengthwise. Pistillate flowers with a calyx of 3 sepals, the ovary 2-celled; styles 2, distinct or nearly so; stigmas entire; ovules solitary in each cavity. Capsule usually 2-lobed. Seed solitary in each cavity, with a smooth or tuber-culate crustaceous testa. [Latin, belonging to the god Mercury.]

About 7 species, mostly natives of the Mediterranean region. Type species: Mercurialis perennis L.

1. Mercurialis Annua L. Herb Mercury

Fig. 2728

Mercurialis annua L. Sp. Pl. 1033. 1753.

Annual, glabrous. Stems 8-2° tall, more or less widely branched; leaves thinnish, ovate to lanceo-. late, acute or slightly acuminate, serrate with rounded teeth, or crenate; petioles 21/2"-7 1/2" long; staminate flowers in interrupted spikes which surpass the leaves; pistillate flowers clustered in the axils; capsules 2-lobed, 2"-2 1/2" broad, hispid; seeds subglobose, 3/4" in diameter, pitted.

In waste places, Nova Scotia to Florida, Ohio and Texas; Bermuda. Native of Europe and Africa.

1 Mercurialis Annua L Herb Mercury 1070

9. RÍCINUS [Tourn.] L. Sp. Pl. 1007. 1753.

A tall stout monoecious herb, glabrous and glaucous, with alternate large peltate pal-mately-lobed petioled leaves, and numerous small apetalous greenish flowers in terminal racemes, the pistillate above the staminate. Staminate flowers with a 3-5-parted calyx, the segments valvate, and numerous crowded stamens; filaments repeatedly branched. Pistillate flowers with a caducous calyx, a 3-celled, 3-ovuled ovary, the 3 red styles united at the base, 2-cleft. Capsule subglobose, or oval, smooth or spiny, separating into 3 2-valved carpels. Seeds ovoid or oblong, usually mottled. Embryo straight. Endosperm fleshy and oily. [The Latin name of the plant.]

A monotypic genus of the warmer parts of Africa and Asia.

1. Ricinus Communis L. Castor-Oil Plant. Castor-Bean. Palma Christi

Fig. 2729

Ricinus communis L. Sp. Pl. 1007. 1753.

Stem erect, 3°-l5° tall, more or less branched, becoming tree-like in warm regions. Leaves nearly orbicular in outline, 4'-2° broad, 6-11-palmately-lobed and peltate, the lobes toothed, acute or acuminate; capsule 6"-8" in diameter, usually spiny; sometimes smooth; seeds shining, smooth, black, variegated with white, or mottled with gray and brown markings.

In waste places, escaped from cultivation, New Jersey to Florida and Texas. An imposing ornamental plant, and also of medicinal value. Widely naturalized in warm and tropical regions. Oil-plant. Mexico-seed. Stedfast. Man's-motherwort.

1 Ricinus Communis L Castor Oil Plant Castor Bean  1071