Turkey Tangle Frogfruit

May, 2018

Sometimes my insistence on taking pictures of tiny, insignificant little "weeds" pays off. That's how, on a otherwise boring walk around a neighborhood of cultivated plants, I "discovered" Turkey Tangle Frogfruit. Maybe the plant is not that impressive looking, but that's the best name I learned all year! It's almost impossible to say it without smiling! The only problem is that I have NOT been able to find out WHY it's called Turkey Tangle Frogfruit. And someone is always asking! I usually just ask kids why they think it might be called Turkey Tangle Frogfruit! (See! I just love saying it!) Their answers can be pretty entertaining, but I would like to know the REAL story! If anyone knows, please share!!

Anyway, on to ID'ing these. The "flower" of frogfruit is very pretty, but so tiny that you have to get down there on the ground to even notice it. It's actually made up of many tiny, four-petaled, white or pink flowers around a dark center. After you've identified it once, it's very recognizable as frogfruit (or fogfruit, but that name is not as much fun!) However, it turns out there are several species of frogfruit, at least four that occur in North Texas. Turkey Tangle Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is by far the most common, but Lanceleaf Frogfruit ( Phyla lanceolata) is also fairly common. Two less common species, Diamond-Leaf Frogfruit ( P. fruticosa)* . and Wedge-leaf Frogfruit (P. cuneifolia) also occur.

The two most common types of frogfruit in North Texas are Turkey Tangle Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) and Lanceleaf Frogfruit (P. lanceolata)

In P. nodiflora (Turkey Tangle Frogfruit), the leaf is teardrop shaped (oblanceolate) with the widest part of the leaf beyond the middle, and the leaf is toothed only near the end, less than half the length of the leaf. In P. lanceolata, (Lanceleaf Frogfruit) the widest part of the leaf is near the middle, and the teeth start below the middle and cover more than half of the leaf.

Each of these common types of frogfruit have a less common type with a somewhat similar leaf shape. If the leaf is widest beyond the middle, it is most likely P. nodiflora, but you still have to rule out Wedge-leaf Frogfruit (P. cunefolia).

In P. cunefolia:
• the leaves are small and have only a few (1-3) teeth per side.
• the flower stalks are short: not much longer than nearby leaves, and often even shorter.
• The inflorescence (the little bunch of tiny flowers) is short and round, and large in proportion to the tiny leaves.

In contrast to P. nodiflora, where:
• the flower stalk is longer than the adjacent leaves, usually much longer.
• The inflorescence becomes long (cylindrical)

If the leaf’s widest part is near the middle, it is most likely P. lanceolata, but you still have to rule out Diamond-Leaf Frogfruit (P. fruticosa.)* Luckily, the leaf looks quite different.

In P. lanceolata:
• The ellipse shape of the leaf has a nice, even arc – with the widest part at the middle, tapering to a point at each end. The teeth cover more than half of the leaf on each side, from below the widest part to the tip.

In P. fruticosa:
• The leaf is NOT an even arc: it gets to its widest part before the middle, then tapers to the end. The leaf does not have teeth below that widest point. The leaf is often pleated (folded like a fan) and the teeth are also more spread apart (divergent) than in other species.

*USDA Plants database lists P. strigulosa as synonym for P. fruticosa https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PHFR11

BACK TO: A Collection of Helpful Identification Guides

Posted by lisa281 lisa281, December 15, 2018 10:23 PM


I "discovered" Turkey Tangle Frogfruit out here on the west coast when I started using iNaturalist a few years ago and suddenly found all sorts of interesting things that I had literally walked over and not noticed for years! Like you, I love the name and I searched for the answer to how it came by such a unique name. The "frog fruit" part was explained in one source as being a corruption of "fog fruit" and that "fog" referred to moss years ago. No explanation given for why it would be called "moss fruit." I figure the "turkey tangle" part comes from thinking that turkeys would get their toes tangled in the matted plant, but I did not find any source that speculated on the origin of that part of the name.

Posted by milliebasden about 4 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for the info, @milliebasden ! I have heard "fog fruit" as an alternate name, but that's just not as much fun! I hadn't heard the part about "fog" referring to moss, though. That's interesting - and a new lead! I'll let you know if I find out anything further..

Posted by lisa281 about 4 years ago (Flag)

There's a long investigation here into the possible origin of the name Turkey Tangle Frogfruit: http://illustratedplantnut.blogspot.com/2014/06/turkey-tangle-fog-fruit-whats-in-name.html

Posted by rupertclayton about 3 years ago (Flag)

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