procumbent [ proh-KUHM-buhnt ] adjective: describing a plant stem that grows along the ground without taking root
Virginia native Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) and Allegheny Mountains’ native Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge), a recommended alternative to invasive Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese pachysandra), are examples of slow-growing, creeping ground covers with epithets indicating procumbent habit. Procumbens comes from the Latin verb procumbere (from pro, forward, and cumbere, to lie down), so procumbent stems fall or move forward while lying or trailing horizontally on the ground. What distinguishes this epithet from the stoloniferous category is that these stems do not take root at the nodes.
Although these two species are variously described as rhizomatous or stoloniferous without adventitious roots, their stems are often characterized as decumbent, rather than procumbent. Both procumbent and decumbent stems trail along the ground, but the tips of decumbent stems turn upward.
Left to right: Gaultheria procumbens and Pachysandra procumbens as ground covers,
Pachysandra procumbens (flowers/stems, specimen, and decumbent stems/leaves).
Dolan RW. 2004. Conservation Assessment for Allegheny-spurge (Pachysandra procumbens Michx.). USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region.
eFloras (2008). Published on the Internet http://www.efloras.org [accessed January 28, 2022] Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Keener BR, Diamond AR, Barger TW, Davenport LJ, Davison PG, Ginzbarg SL, Hansen CJ, Spaulding DD, Triplett JK, Woods M. 2022. Alabama Plant Atlas. [S.M. Landry and K.N. Campbell (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research. University of South Florida]. University of West Alabama, Livingston, Alabama.
Weakley AS, Ludwig JC, Townsend JF. 2012. Flora of Virginia. Botanical Research Institute of Texas. page 532.
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