Illecebrum lanatum (L.) Murr.
Perennial herb, frequently woody and sufirutescent below, prostrate to decumbent or erect, (0.1-) 0.3-2 m, branched from the base and often also above. Stem and branches terete, striate, ± densely lanate with whitish or yellowish, ± shaggy hairs. Leaves alternate, suborbicular to lanceolate-elliptic, cuneate at the base, rounded and apiculate to acute at the apex, usually densely lanate or canescent on the lower surface and more thinly so above, those of the main stem 10-50 x 5-35 mm, those of the branches and upper part of the stem smaller; petioles up to 2 cm. Spikes sessile, solitary or usually in axillary clusters on the main stems or long to very short axillary branches, 0.4-1.5 (-2) x 0.3-0.4 cm, divergent, cylindrical, silky white to creamy, forming a long inflorescence leafy to the ultimate spikes. Flowers (in Asia) hermaphrodite. Outer 2 tepals hyaline, oval-oblong, abruptly contracted at the tip to a distinct mucro formed by the excurrent nerve, 0.75-1.25 mm, inner 3 slightly shorter and narrower, acute with a broad central green vitta along the midrib, which extends for about three-quarters of their length and is furnished with a thickened border of two lateral nerves; all tepals densely lanate dorsally. Style and two short, divergent stigmas together subequalling the ovary in length at anthesis.
Type: Linnean specimen 290/6 (LINN, holotype!).
Distribution: Widespread in the drier parts of the tropics and subtropics of the Old World, from W. Africa, north and S. to Egypt, Madagascar and the Seychelles to E. Asia, Arabia and Iran, E. to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea.
Not yet certainly found in Pakistan, but may possibly occur in the S., or be eventually introduced. Recorded by Stewart from “Baluch., Stocks, teste Burkill”. There is no Stocks specimen of this species at Kew, nor did Boissier cite one; the record therefore seems dubious.
The description of the perianth given above refers only to this species in the eastern part of its range. In Africa not only the hermaphrodite flowers here described occur, but also female flowers in which the stamens are reduced and bear no anthers. In these the tepals are often but not invariably longer and more gradually narrowed, and the stigmas are longer. Functionally male flowers apparently occur also; these have a perianth similar to the hermaphrodite flowers, but the stigma is subcapitate and scarcely papillose, or the branches very short.
I do not find the style character used by Backer in the Flora Malesiana to separate the present species from Aerva sanguinolenta to be real. Given hermaphrodite flowers of both, the stigma lengths appear to me to be roughly similar.