Biological Sciences Department
Index Herbariourm

Physalis Flowers: Spot Types

Most Physalis flowers have spots (a.k.a. maculations) at the base of the inside of the corollas. Within a species, the spots can vary a great deal in size and color, but will usually share some general tendencies, such as having a similar shape or similar shades (i.e. they're usually dark or they're usually light). Be prepared, though. Just like a white flowered individual will occasionally turn up in a species which normally has colored flowers, so too, will an unspotted Physalis individual occasionally pop up in a species that otherwise should have spotted flowers. It's not common, but it does happen.

Spot type is something not often used in keys, since you can't depend on a specimen always having unfaded flowers. However, it can be a very useful trait if you're wavering between a couple of possible species and you need a little more evidence to help you decide.

Spot Types
Distinct: so dark and sharp that they look like someone inked them on with a black marker.

Indistinct: a catch-all group for species with pale, difficult to see spots.
Indistinct: a catch-all group for species with pale, difficult to see spots.
Compound: the larger spots are made up of smaller spots. Uncommon in U.S. species.
Smudgy: large, dark spots with blurry edges.
Feathery: the spot pigment bleeds out into the veins of the flower.

Characteristics of Kentucky Species

P. alkekengi: compound spots, usually in the yellow to green range. Since this is our only species with white flowers, looking at the spots usually isn't necessary.
P. angulata
Indistinct to no spots. Usually darker yellow, greenish, or bluish smudges at the base of the flower.
P. grisea: dark, smudgy spots. Usually brown.
P. heterophylla
prominent feathery spots, usually dark brown.
P. longifolia:
smudgy spots, usually mid-brown to greenish-brown.
P. philadelphica:
smudgy bluish spots.
P. pubescens:
distinct very dark spots (usually black). Often so dark they're visible from the outside of the flower.
P. virginiana
prominent feathery spots, usually dark brown.

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