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Weed Identification

Virginia threeseed mercury

Family

Euphorbiaceae

Scientific Name

Acalypha virginica

Other Common Names:

Virginia copperleaf
wax balls
threeseeded mercury
mercuryweed

Habit

This summer annual produces flowers from June through October.

Leaves

The leaves are opposite when it's young but it becomes alternate later along the hairy stems. The leaves have toothed margins and turn a copper color with age. The lanceolate leaves can grow from 3/4 to 3 inches long.

Identifying Characteristics

This plant can be identified by copper-colored young leaves and by axillary flower clusters.

Flower Seed Head

Male and female flowers are produced separately on the same plant (monoecious). Both flower types are greenish, inconspicuous, and produced in clusters in the leaf axils on the upper portions of the stem. Female flowers are surrounded by conspicuous, bracts that have 9 to 15 deep lobes.

Seed Fruit

The egg-shaped seeds grow from 1.4 to 1.8 mm long in a 3-lobed seed pod. The seeds are dull reddish-brown or gray with reddish-brown spots.

Where Found

Plants are found from Maine to Florida, west to South Dakota and Texas. They occur throughout much of the eastern two-thirds of the United States. Plants are common in poorly managed turfgrass and pastures. Large populations will occur following tillage.

Growth Habit

upright and nonwoody

Thorns or Spines

not present

Dominant Flower Color

red

Flower Symmetry

radial symmetery

Leaf Hairs

Varies: 
no hairs
has hairs

Leaf Shape

lance

Leaf Arrangement

alternate

Leaf Margin

Varies: 
entire
serrated

Leaf Structure

simple

Leaf Stalk

shorter than leaf

Stem Hairs

has hairs

Stem Cross Section

round or oval

Milky Sap

not present

Root Structure

taproot

Life Cycle

summer annual

Ochrea

not present

Plant Type

Herb