Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Herbs, subshrubs, rarely shrubs, annual, biennial or perennial, dichotomously branched; stems often swollen at nodes. Leaves usually opposite, sometimes alternate, rarely whorled, simple, entire, rarely serrulate, often connate at base; stipules scarious, sometimes connate, rarely absent. Inflorescences usually terminal, paniculate, racemiform or capitate dichasial cymes or cincinni, sometimes few-flowered or single-flowered; bracts often scarious. Flowers actinomorphic, usually bisexual, rarely unisexual. Sepals 4 - 5 (-25), rarely spirally arranged, free or united into a tube, often scarious-margined. Receptacle often prolonged into an anthophore carrying petals, stamens and ovary. Petals (4-) 5 (-12), free, entire, emarginate or 2-fid, rarely 4-fid, often basally clawed, sometimes with appendages on inner face, sometimes small or absent. Stamens (3-) 10 (-13), free, usually in 2 series, mostly obdiplostemonous; filaments free, filiform, those opposite sepals sometimes with a glandular thickening at base; anthers 2-locular dorsifixed; locules parallel, sometimes separate, dehiscing longitudinally.Ovary superior unilocular or rarely incompletely 2 - 5-locular at base; ovules 2-many, rarely one, campylotropous or semianatropous; placentation free-central, axile or basal; styles 1 - 5, free or partially connate. Fruit a capsule, opening by as many or twice as many apical teeth or valves as there are styles, sometimes fleshy (Cucubalus) and dehisctng irregularly or indehiscent, sometimes an achene or nutlet; seeds usually many, rarely few to one, endospermous; embryo usually curved or straight.

Cosmopolitan, mainly confined to temperate and alpine regions, some tropical; ca 70 genera and ca 1750 species; 25 genera and 122 species in India.

Notes. Following the family delimitation proposed by Cronquist (1981),the family Illecebraceae is included in the Caryophyllaceae.

Literature. GHAZANPAR, S. A. & Y. J. NASIR (1986) Caryophyllaceae. In: Nasir & Ali, Fl. W. Pakistan 175: 1 - 125. GRIERSON, A. J. C. (1984) Caryophyllaceae. In: Grierson & Long, Fl. Bhutan 1(2): 197 - 216. HARA, H. & M. C. TEBBS (1979) Cariophyllaceae. In: Hara & Williams, Enum. Fl. Pl. Nepal 2: 51 - 59. MCNEILL, J. (1962) Taxonomic studies in the Alsinoideae I. Generic and infrageneric groups. Notes R. Bot. Gard. Edinb. 24: 79 - 155. MCNEILL, J. (1963) Taxonomic studies in the Alsinoideae II. A revision of the specia in the Orient. Ibid. 24: 241 - 404. PAX, F. & K. HOFFMANN (1934) Caryophyllaceae. In: Engler & Prantl, Pflanzenfam. ed. 2, 16c: 273 - 364. WILLIAMS, F. N.(1909) The Caryophyllceae of Tibet. J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 38: 395 - 407.


1a. Sepals free 2
b. Sepals united forming a distinct calyx tube or united partially at base only 18
2a. Petals usually absent; fruit an indehiscent nutlet or achene; seeds 1 or 2 3
b. Petals present; fruit a dehiscent capsule; seeds few to many 4
3a. Leaves free at base, stipulate; fruit an achene with a membranous wall 8. Herniaria
b. Leaves connate at base, exstipulate; fruit a nutlet with a hardened wall 19. Scleranthus
4a. Leaves stipulate 5
b. Leaves exstipulate 9
5a. Styles 3 - 5, free up to base 6
b. Styles 3, united at base 7
6a. Axillary fascicles of leaves borne on both sides of nodes; stipules not connate; styles 3 - 5 21. Spergula
b. Axillary fascicles of leaves borne on one side of nodes only; stipules connate; styles 3 22. Spergularia
7a. Leaves usually cordate at base; petals deeply 2-fid 6. Drymaria
b. leaves not cordate at base; petals not 2-fid 8
8a. Herbs diffuse; sepals keeled or hooded 16. Polycarpon
b. Herbs erect; sepals neither keeled nor hooded 15. Polycarpaea
9a. Capsule valves as many as styles 10
b. Capsule valves twice as many as styles 13
10a. Styles fewer than sepals 11
b. Styles as many as sepals 12
11a. Styles 3; capsules 3-valved 12. Minuartia
b. Styles 2; capsules 2-valved 10. Lepyrodiclis
12a. Leaves lnear-subulate; sepals less than 3 mm long; capsule teeth entire 18. Sagina
b. Leaves ovate; sepals more than 5 mm long; capsule teeth 2-fid 13. Myosoton
13a. Petals 2-fid to halfway or more (rarely emarginate, sometimes minute or absent) 23. Stellaria
b. Petals 2-fid to one-third or entire, emarginate or lacerate, rarely absent 14
14a. Plants with napiform or fusiform bulbs or tubers arising laterally from rhizomes; fertile cleistogamous flowers present 17. Pseudostellaria
b. Plants without bulbs or tubers; cleistogamous flowers absent 15
15a. Inflorescence an umbel-like cyme; petals irregularly toothed 9. Holosteum
b. Inflorence a dichotomous cyme or panicle, sometimes reduced to a single flower; petals entire, emarginate or 2-fid 16
16a. Petals 2-fid up to one-third, rarely emarginate; capsules cylindrical 3. Cerastium
b. Petals entire or subentire, rarely absent; capsules not cylindrical 17
17a. Herbs climbing; petioles becoming curved and hard; capsules globose; seed one per capsule 2. Brachystemma
b. Herbs not climbing; petioles neither becoming curved nor hard; capsules not globose, various, other than cylindrical; seeds few to many per capsule 1. Arenaria
18a. Calyx tube with commissural veins alternating, with midnerve of sepals; styles 3 - 5 19
b. Calyx tube without commissural veins; styles usually 2, rarely 3 21
19a. Fruits fleshy, berry-like, dehiscing irregularly 4. Cucubalus
b. Fruits dry, capsular, dehiscing by 3 - 6 valves 20
20a. Capsule teeth 2-fid, twice as many as styles 20. Silene
b. Capsule teeth entire, as many as styles 11. Lychnis
21a. Calyx tube with scarious intervals between nerves 22
b. Calyx tube without scarious intervals between nerves 23
22a. Seeds peltate, dorso-ventrally compressed with a facial hilum 14. Petrorhagia
b. Seeds not peltate, subreniform, flattened on both sides with a lateral hilum 7. Gypsophila
23a. Bracteoles (epicalyx) present 5. Dianthus
b. Bracteoles (epicalyx) absent 24
24a. Plants forming hard cushions; leaves densely crowded; petals borne on calyx tube 24. Thylacospermum
b. Plants not forming cushions; leaves not densely crowded; petals hypogynously inserted on a short thick receptacle 25. Vaccaria

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