Scientific Name:
Alternanthera Forssk., Fl. Aegypt.-Arab. 28 (1775)
Vernacular Name(s):
Chaff flower; Copperleaf; Joseph's coat; Joyweed

Perennial herbs with a slender tap root; stems prostrate to erect, 2.0–3.5 mm diam., green and flushed pink, glabrous to sparsely hairy, with two decurrent lines of hairs, nodes tomentose. Leaves (20–)30–83 × 6–12 mm, leaves usually narrowly elliptic or lanceolate, sometimes linear to linear- oblong, light green or yellow-green with midrib and lateral veins pink, glabrate to sparsely hairy on margins, midrib, and both surfaces, apex acute; margins distinctly denticulate; base attenuate. Spikes globular or shortly oblong, 0.5–0.8 mm diam., clustered, with 15–20 flowers; rachis sparsely hairy, flowers subtended by 1 bract and 2 bracteoles; bracts and bracteoles 1.5–2.0 × 0.6–0.8 mm, lanceolate, cream, glabrous, membranous, shortly acuminate to acute. Perianth segments 2.3–2.4 × 0.6–0.8 mm, lanceolate, cream, glabrous, membranous, shortly acuminate to acute; anthers c. 0.15 mm long, yellow; filaments 3–4 mm long, translucent; style 0.1– 0.2 mm long; stigma capitate; ovary 0.4–0.5 mm long, green. Fruit 1.7–1.8 × 1.9–2.1 mm, cream and flushed pink, obovoid, compressed, indehiscent. Seeds 0.9–1.0 × 0.8–0.9 mm, cream to yellow, often with a light brown centre, compressed.

[Reproduced from Heenan & de Lange (2004, New Zealand J. Bot. 42: 739-745) with permission from The Royal Society of New Zealand.]

Indigenous (Non-endemic)
Number of species in New Zealand within Alternanthera Forssk.
Indigenous (Non-endemic)2
Exotic: Fully Naturalised1
Exotic: Casual1
Forsskål, P. 1775: Flora Aegyptiaco-Arabica. Möller, Copenhagen.
Heenan, P.B.; de Lange, P.J. 2004: Alternanthera denticulata (Amaranthaceae) in New Zealand: a new addition to the indigenous or naturalised flora? New Zealand Journal of Botany 42: 739–745.
Heenan, P.B.; de Lange, P.J.; Keeling, J. 2009: Alternanthera nahui, a new species of Amaranthaceae indigenous to New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 47: 97–105.
Mabberley, D.J. 2008: Mabberley's plant book, a portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses. Edition 3. Cambridge University Press.