An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of October 13, 2008
written in Yokdzonot, Yucatán, México


Nowadays one of our most conspicuous roadside weeds is a tiny-flowered, knee-high plant that's eye-catching only because of its abundance and its silvery-fuzzy leaves and stems, which give it a frosted look, shown below:


It's WALTHERIA INDICA, a member of the same family, the Sterculia Family or the Sterculiaceae, in which also is found Cacao, from which chocolate is produced, and Cola, whose seed kernels are used in medicine and stimulating drinks.

Its flowers are easily overlooked because they grow packed together in small bunches along the stem, at petiole bases. However, the yellow blossoms, about the size of peppercorns, are pretty things, as shown below:


In that picture five stamens with their anthers heavily coated with pollen grains project from the flower's throat. One halfway unusual thing about flowers in the Chocolate Family is that fertile stamens like those shown arise opposite the petals. In most blossoms they alternate with the petals, thus are opposite the sepals, which in turn alternate with the petals. Also, typically the filaments of stamens in the family unite at their bases into a sort of tube or column.

Along the road to Sabacché Waltheria indica grows right at the pavement's edge, then about two feet away from the pavement other weeds take over, so it's highly adapted for that precise roadside habitat. Sometimes it makes a striking presence forming a silvery fringe to the black highway.