Classification: Plant Family Characteristics

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Big Bend Community College Botany

Amaranthaceae,  AMARANTH or PIGWEED family.   Harsh stiff plants with small green flowers.  Little spines surround the flower.  Shiny, black, lens-shaped seed.

Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae),  CARROT or PARSLEY family.   Tiny flowers in a broad, flat cluster arising from a common point at the end of stems (an umbel).  Leaves often dissected.

Apocynaceae,  DOGBANE family.   Plants have milky juice.  Flowers have five petals in a tube and look like little windmills (a rotate corolla).

Asclepiadaceae,  MILKWEED family.  Plants have milky juice.  Leaves opposite or in whorls.  Flowers pink or purplish.

Asteraceae (formerly Compositae),  SUNFLOWER family.   Three types:  with rays and tubes, with tubes only, with rays only.  The tube-like flowers set on a receptacle.  Some species have milky juice.

Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae),  MUSTARD family.   Has four petals that are white, yellow, or purple, superior ovary, and six stamens.  Seedpods vary in shape (usually a silicle or silique) and have a central membrane.

Boraginaceae,  BORAGE family.  Plants rough and bristly-hairy.  Flowers have five petals in a tube; in clusters or spikes, or on one side of a coiling inflorescence.  Seeds are rough and form in groups of four.

Caryophyllaceae,  PINK family.   Leaves opposite or whorled, joined around a swollen stem.  Flowers generally showy, petals often notched; more than one style.  Seeds rough or warty.

Chenopodiaceae,  GOOSEFOOT or LAMBSQUARTERS family.   Alternate leaves, flowers small, green, sometimes with a red tint, not showy, generally clustered.  Striped stem.

Cyperaceae,  SEDGE family.   Often grass-like.  Stems are solid and triangular with no nodes.  Leaves with parallel veins.  Flowers in spikes.  Often rhizomatous herbs.

Equisetaceae,  HORSETAIL family.   Leafless with straight, finely-ridged stems with joints at regular intervals.  Some species with whorls of branches at the joints.  Spore bearing.

Euphorbiaceae,  SPURGE family.   Most species have acrid, milky juice.  Bracts under flowers in some species turn yellow-green.  Fruit is three-lobed.

Fabaceae(formerly Leguminosae),  LEGUME or PEA family.   Compound leaves and irregular flowers with a pea blossom shape.  Some members have tendrils and climb.  Seed in a legume pod.

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae),  MINT family.   Square stem, leaves opposite and usually hairy.  Flowers are irregular, seeds form four in a cluster, three-sided.  Plant often aromatic.

Malvaceae,  MALLOW family.   Leaves are rounded and usually lobed.  All veins run from point of leaf attachment (palmate).  Flowers are five parted.

Onagraceae,  EVENING PRIMROSE or FIREWEED family.   Has four petals, inferior ovary, and eight stamens.

Poaceae (formerly Gramineae),  GRASS family.   Emerge with a single leaf.  Slender leaves with parallel veins, hollow stems, seed enclosed in paper-like husks.  

Polemoniaceae,  POLEMONIUM or PHLOX family.   Flowers have five petals in a tube, stamen irregularly inserted, superior ovary in three sections.

Polygonaceae,  BUCKWHEAT or DOCK family.  Stem with watery or sour juice; has a paper-like collar at the base of the leaf.  Flowers small, green, pink, or white in color.  Fruits mostly 3-sided.

Portulacaceae,  PURSLANE family.   Two sepals, four or five petals, sometimes showy.  Plant soft and fleshy with smooth stems and leaves.

Rubiaceae,  MADDER or BEDSTRAW family.  Square stem, tiny white four-part flowers; leaves in whorls around the stem.

Scrophulariaceae,  FIGWORT or SNAPDRAGON family.  Flowers irregular, some, with a spur at the base, resemble those of a snapdragon.  Others are four-lobed, with the upper lobe large and the lower lobe small.

Solanaceae,  NIGHTSHADE family.   Flowers have five petals in a tube (like a potato flower).  Superior ovary that forms a capsule or a plump berry.  Seeds are circular and flat.

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