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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