Plant of the Week
Fringeleaf Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis Nutt.)
By David Taylor
Fringeleaf wild petunia is in the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) family. This family contains about 2500 species worldwide that range from herbs to shrubs and small trees. Most are tropical. Members of this genus are most common in the tropics, but a few are found in the United States. This species is found from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan west to Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska south to Texas then eastward to Florida, but not in South Carolina. It also occurs in northern Mexico.
Fringeleaf wild petunia grows from slender rhizomes. Overtime, a single plant can produce a clump of 30 -70 cm (ca. 1 - 2 ft) in diameter. Stems may be 10 - 30 cm (4 -12 in) high. The leaves are simple, hairy and are about 2 - 3 cm (3/4 - 1 in) long and about 1.3 cm (1/2 in) wide . The leaves have fringe-like hairs along the margin. Flowers are produced in small clusters in the axils of leaves. They are purplish and about 3.8 cm (1.5 in) across. There are prominent bee guidelines in the center of the flower. Flowering begins in June and may continue to September depending on location.
The common name comes from a resemblance of the flower to the garden petunia . The fruit is a narrow capsule. Typical habitat is in dry prairie, fields, meadows, and open woodlands, often in sandy soil. It is usually abundant in these locations. It can be cultivated but may become extremely weedy in a garden. Never dig plants from the wild.