Tropical South America
Occurs most densely in partial or full shade of disturbed and undisturbed hammocks, particularly in moist or wet areas but also in well- drained woodlands and shady residential yards. Forms dense monocultural ground cover that can be 60 cm (2 ft) deep in overlapping leafy stems (Kelly and Skipworth 1984). Smothers native ground cover and seedlings of overstory species (K.C. Burks, Florida DEP, personal observation; Godfrey and Wooten 1979). Once established, difficult to control without nontarget damage (J. Weimer, Paynes Prairie Preserve, 1996 personal communication). Listed as a categroy I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC).
Creeping, trailing, subsucculent perennial herb, much branched, with branch tips erect; often forming dense ground cover; prostrate stems rooting freely at nodes. Leaves parallel-veined, alternate, simple, all glossy green or tinged with purple below; leaf blades arising from short, closed shealths (tops often ciliate); blades to 5 cm (2 in) long and 2 cm (0.75 in) wide, oblong to ovate, with tips pointed; glabrous or with ciliate margins. Flowers white, in small clusters at small tips, subtended by 1-3 leaflike bracts similar in size and form to stem leaves; 3 sepals and petals, separate; sepals usually with a line of hairs; 6 stamens, white bearded (pilose); ovary 3-celled, 6-seeded. Fruits small, 3 parted capsules; seeds black, pitted.
Leaves are alternately arranged along the stems and have shleathed bases. Flowers are arranged in small cluster near the tip of the stems.
Recognized in 1947 as a common weed under benches in commercial greenhouses and as naturalized in the Southest (Bailey and Bailey 1976). Still cultuvated, most often as a house or patio plant.
Found most abundantly naturalized in north central Florida, from Gainesville to Orlando, but documented by herbarium specimens for 10 counties, including Leon and Calhoun in the Panhandle, Flager on the east coast, and Hillsborough on the west (Wunderlin et al. 1995). Reported by conservation-area managers primarily for Alachua and Marion counties (EPPC 1996), with several dense populations noted in bottomland forests.
Do not plant. Any fragments removed should be disposed of properly as to prevent reinfestation.