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Family Araceae

Description: Perennial herbs, mostly terrestrial or occasionally aquatic or climbers sometimes ± epiphytic; with underground or aerial stems or both; stem sympodial but usually appearing unbranched, sometimes monopodial with lateral branches; often with latex or acrid poisonous juice.

Leaves alternate, highly diverse; lamina [variously compound] or simple, [much lobed to] entire, hastate to linear, fine venation reticulate to parallel; petiole sheathing, rarely absent.

Inflorescence terminal, or apparently lateral, solitary or clumped, a spadix subtended or partially enclosed by a spathe or rarely the spathe absent. Flowers small, bisexual, unisexual or sterile, if unisexual the plants monoecious and the sexes segregated in zones on the spadix, female lowermost, then sometimes a sterile zone, then male, then sometimes an uppermost sterile zone forming a variously shaped and often smelly appendix. Perianth absent or segments [9–] 6–4, free to fused. Stamens c. 40–1, free or fused; anthers 2- or 1-locular, dehiscing by pores or longitudinal [or transverse] slits. Ovary superior [to half-inferior, [from c. 50-] to a few- or 1-locular; ovules 1–many per loculus; style terminal and short or stigma sessile.

Fruit fleshy; seeds 1–many, endosperm present or not in the mature seed.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 110 genera, c. 2500 species, cosmopolitan. Australia: 12 genera, c. 30 species, Qld, N.S.W, N.T., W.A.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Araceae, Order: Alismatales)

The family includes plants of great economic importance, especially as staple tropical starch crops, including Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, Xanthosoma species, Cyrtosperma merkusii (Hassk.) Schott, Alocasia macrorrhizos (L.) Don and Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (Dennst.) Nicolson. Araceae, known generally as aroids, include numerous foliage houseplants forming the basis of a significant industry. Several have showy flowers, most notably species of Spathiphyllum, Zantedeschia and some Anthurium species.

Text by A. Hay
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key

 Key to the genera 
1Climbing or hemi-epiphytic plantsPothos
Terrestrial or aquatic plants2
2Plants floating aquatic, lettuce-like, hairyPistia
Plants terrestrial, not lettuce-like, glabrescent
                       Back to 1
3Leaves linear, less than 3 cm wide; flowers bisexual; perianth present; spathes absentGymnostachys
Leaves with lamina expanded, deeply 3-lobed or unlobed and more than 10 cm wide; flowers unisexual; perianth absent; spathe present
                       Back to 2
4Fine venation striate between lateral veinsZantedeschia
Fine venation reticulate between lateral veins
                       Back to 3
5Leaves peltate, glaucousColocasia
Mature leaves not peltate, not glaucous
                       Back to 4
6Stem massive, trunk-like; lamina of leaves 40–70 cm longAlocasia
Stem small, cormous to rhizomatous; lamina of leaves less than 30 cm long
                       Back to 5
7Filiform sterile flowers above female and male zones of spadix; leaves marbled with whiteArum
Filiform sterile flowers above female zone of spadix; leaves not marbled white
                       Back to 6

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