5. Croton monanthogynus Michx. (one-seeded croton, prairie tea)
Map 1660, Pl.
378 j, k
monoecious, densely pubescent with minute, stellate hairs (less densely on the
upper surface of the leaf blades), the branches 0.2–0.3 mm long,
sometimes slightly unequal and with 1 longer branch raised from the surface.
Stems 20–40(–60) cm long, usually with 1 or few whorls of
branches at or below the midpoint and repeatedly dichotomously branched above
these. Leaves alternate, short- to long-petiolate, the petiole without large,
saucer-shaped glands at the tip. Leaf blades 1–4 cm long, ovate to
oblong-ovate or oblong-elliptic, rounded, angled or occasionally truncate at
the base, mostly rounded at the tip (sometimes bluntly pointed or with an
abrupt, minute, sharp point), the margins entire, the undersurface paler than
the upper surface. Inflorescences appearing terminal, axillary, and between the
dichotomous upper stem branches, mostly short, dense, spikelike racemes (often
appearing as dense clusters) with pistillate flowers toward the base and
staminate flowers toward the tip. Staminate flowers with the calyx deeply
(3)4(5)-lobed, 1.5–2.5 mm long; the petals (4)5, 1.5–2.5 mm
long, white; the stamens 3–8. Pistillate flowers with the calyx
1.5–2.0 mm long at flowering, becoming slightly enlarged to 2–3
mm long at fruiting, 5-lobed; the petals absent; the ovary 2-locular, the 2
styles each deeply 2-lobed. Fruits 3.5–4.0 mm in length,
2.5–3.5 mm in diameter, ovate in outline, not flattened, 1-seeded,
dehiscent. Seeds 2.8–3.2 mm long, broadly elliptic to nearly circular
in outline, slightly flattened, the caruncle present as a small knob. 2n=16.
throughout the state but absent or uncommon in the eastern half of the
Glaciated Plains Division (eastern U.S. west to Nebraska and Arizona; Mexico). Glades, upland prairies, tops of bluffs, savannas, openings of dry upland forests,
and occasionally banks of streams and rivers; also pastures, old fields,
railroads, roadsides, and dry, open, disturbed areas.
(1963) noted that, although this plant can poison livestock like other species
of Croton, it is usually avoided by cattle because of its bitter flavor.
He also noted that turkeys eat the seeds and that deer browse the foliage
without apparent digestive tract problems.