Pupalia lappacea var. velutina Hook. f.
Perennial herb, erect and c. 0.6-0.9 m tall, or bushy or sprawling, or sub-scandent and scrambling to c. 2 m, stem generally much-branched and swollen at the nodes, 4-angled to almost terete, thinly pilose to densely tomentose. Leaves variable in shape and size, from narrowly ovate-elliptic to oblong or orbicular, 2-12 x 1-6 cm, acuminate to apiculate at the summit (often retuse in round-leaved forms), shortly or more longly cuneate at the base, narrowed to a petiole 2-25 mm long; indumentum of lamina varying from subsericeous or tomentose to subglabrous with a few hairs running vertically along the lower surface of the primary venation, commonly moderately pilose with the hairs along the nerves divergent. Spikes terminal on the stem and branches, at first ± dense, elongating to as much as 0.5 m in fruit with the lower flowers becoming increasingly remote, axis subglabrous to tomentose, peduncle c. 1-10 cm; bracts lanceolate, 1.5-2.5 mm, persistent, ± deflexed after the fall of the fruit, subglabrous or pilose, sharply mucronate with the percurrent midrib; hermaphrodite flowers mostly in ± sessile clusters of 3, upper often solitary; bracteoles of hermaphrodite flowers broadly cordate-ovate, 2.75-5 mm, conspicuous, sharply mucronate with the percurrent midrib. Tepals oblong, 3.5-6 mm, glabrous to ± pilose dorsally, 3-nerved, the lateral nerves of the 2 outer tepals strong throughout, joining the shortly excurrent midrib just below the apex. Spines of modified flowers glabrous except sometimes near the base, yellowish to purple, 3-4 mm; 3-flowered clusters falling together to form a “burr” up to c. 2.5 cm in diameter. Filaments 2-3 mm. Style slender, 1.25 2 mm. Capsule ovoid, 2-2.5 mm. Seed oblong-ovoid with a prominent radicle, 2 mm long, dark brown, shining, testa at first faintly reticulate but finally smooth or punctulate.
Type: Linnean specimen 287/4 (LINN, holotype!).
Distribution: A widespread species in the tropics and subtropics of the Old World. In Asia it occurs from Arabia to India, Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea; also in Egypt and throughout tropical Africa to S. Africa and Madagascar; in Australia and elsewhere as an introduced weed.
In Pakistan Pupalia lappacea occurs as a weed of dry sandy or stony waste ground, as a weed of cultivation or on broken rocky hill slopes, ascending to at least 1000 m.
I entirely concur with Jafri [‘Flora of Karachi”: 109 (1966)] that Pupalia orbiculata (Heyne ex Wall.) Wight is merely a variety of Pupalia lappacea but I have seen no Pakistani material which can be identified with this S. Indian and Ceylonese littoral plant.
The specimen cited by Stewart (l.c.) as var. velutina Hook. f., Deane 54 (K) from the “North West Frontier Province”, bears a locality scrawled in pencil, apparently “Ihugudr”; but I have been unable to find this in any gazetteer. It is a good match for the type of var. velutina, but indumentum shows infinite variation in this species and is not a safe basis for creating infraspecific taxa.