Description: Herbs, climbers, shrubs or trees, glabrous or hairy.
Leaves alternate, compound or simple and entire to deeply dissected; juvenile leaves often different from the adult foliage; mostly petiolate; stipules usually spiny, sometimes minute or absent.
Inflorescence terminal or lateral, racemose or flowers solitary. Flowers mostly actinomorphic, bisexual, except in Apophyllum. Sepals mostly 4 in two whorls, the outer 2 free or fused, the inner 2 free. Petals usually 4, equal, free. Stamens 1–many, free or sometimes fused to the gynophore; anthers 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits. Disc sometimes present between stamens and ovary. Ovary superior, 2–6-carpellate, 1–3-locular, usually on a gynophore, sometimes sessile; ovules 1–many; stigma ± sessile.
Fruit usually a stalked capsule or berry; 1–many-seeded.
Distribution and occurrence: World: 45 genera, c. 700 species, tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: 5 genera, 32 species, all mainland States.
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Capparaceae, Order: Brassicales)
Several are cultivated as garden plants, especially species of Cleome (spider flowers), and occasionally species of Capparis and Polanisia. The pickled flower buds of Capparis spinosa L. (called capers) are used for garnishing or seasoning. Species of Apophyllum and Capparis are hosts for the larvae of the Caper White Butterfly, Anaphaeis java teutonia.
Text by G. J. Harden
| ||Key to the genera|| |
|1||Shrubs, trees or woody scramblers or climbers; glabrous or hairy, but hairs not glandular; leaves absent or simple and entire; fruit an indehiscent berry||2|
|Herbs to 1 m high, sometimes woody at base; plants glandular-pubescent; leaves mostly palmately compound with 3–7 leaflets, occasionally simple; fruit a dehiscent capsule||3|
|2||Plants always leafy, leaves mostly more than 15 mm long, or if less then ovate to broad-ovate; flowers bisexual; berry many-seeded||Capparis|
|Plants often apparently leafless, leaves usually present on new growth but less than 15 mm long and more or less linear; flowers unisexual, plants dioecious; berry 1- or 2-seeded|
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|3||Petals entire; leaves mostly 5–7-foliolate, rarely 3-foliolate or leaves simple; capsule linear, not inflated||Cleome|
|Petals notched or cut into narrow lobes; leaves 3-foliolate; capsule linear-oblong, inflated|
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