Britton's Wild Petunia - Mexican Bluebell
Ruellia simplex C. Wright
Acanthaceae (Acanthus) Family

Plants is an upright or decumbent, much branched, perennial that grows to three feet tall. Stems are smooth and stout (almost woody) with conspicuous swollen nodes. Preferred habitat is marsh areas, flood zones, ditches, ponds and moist woods. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region, but in most parts is treated as a domestic ornamental.

Leaves are long and slender, up to 10 inches long and less than one inch wide (widest at the middle); narrowed at the base and has a short leaf stalk. Each leaf tapers to the tip with sides less than equal.

Flowers are bisexual in nature; funnel-shaped and about two inches long. The corolla has 5 lobes that are fused. Color is violet to purple (rarely white). Each flower is borne solitary on the stem, or in a few-flowered cyme that emerge from the leaf axil. Flowering occurs throughout the summer.

Fruit is an elongated capsule containing brown seeds.

This plant is a native of Mexico, which has naturalized throughout the coastal region. New growth is generally through branches that have made contact with the earth and taken root at the nodes. It was developed in honor of the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma II, but when Cortez conquered Mexico the people beheaded the emperor when it was seen that Cortez was a kinder, gentler ruler and the country would prosper greatly under his rule; suffering fewer hardships and human sacrifice was banned. Over the centuries the petunia was allowed to escape and gradually made its way the United States. It found all the right conditions throughout the delta region of the coastal states and spread rapidly from Texas to Florida.

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