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Family Caryophyllaceae

Description: Annual to perennial herbs, rarely subshrubs; stems thickened at the nodes, often appearing jointed; some species with saponins.

Leaves opposite or apparently whorled, simple, entire, often fused at the base or connected by a transverse line; with or without scarious stipules.

Inflorescence usually a terminal leafy cyme, rarely flowers solitary. Flowers actinomorphic, usually bisexual. Sepals 4 or 5, free or joined, imbricate, persistent. Petals the same number as the sepals, imbricate, free, often clawed, often with coronal scales; occasionally absent. Stamens usually same number as sepals, dehiscent by a longitudinal slit. Ovary superior, mostly 1-locular with free-central placentation, or 3-locular at base with axile placentation and 1-locular above; rarely 1-locular with basal placentation and 1 or rarely 2 ovules; ovules usually numerous; styles 2–5, free or joined below.

Fruit usually a capsule opening by terminal teeth; teeth as many as, or twice as many as styles; sometimes an indehiscent berry, nutlet or achene; seeds usually numerous and variously sculptured.


Distribution and occurrence: World: 80 genera, 2000 species, chiefly northern temperate regions but a few genera of southern temperate regions & high altitude tropical. Australia: 25 genera, 75 species, all States.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Caryophyllaceae, Order: Caryophyllales)
Wikipedia

A number of species are grown as ornamentals (for example, Carnation and Sweet William, Dianthus species), and some are familiar weeds.

Text by A. Doust
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Holosteum

 Key to the genera 
1Stipules present2
Stipules absent8
2Fruit a 1-seeded indehiscent nutlet enclosed in the calyx3
Fruit a capsule with 2 to many seeds, opening by teeth at the summit
                       Back to 1
4
3Leaves awned; sepals glabrous or almost so, reddish, awned; stamens 5Paronychia
Leaves not awned; sepals covered with stiff bristles, green, not awned; stamens 2
                       Back to 2
Herniaria
4Leaves linear to terete5
Leaves obovate to broad-ovate or reniform
                       Back to 2
7
5Bracts very conspicuous, scarious, white, pink, or purplePolycarpaea
Bracts inconspicuous or absent
                       Back to 4
6
6Stipules conspicuous; capsule with 3 teethSpergularia
Stipules inconspicuous and often falling early; capsule with 5 teeth
                       Back to 5
Spergula
7Leaves obovate to spathulate, often in groups of 4; sepals hooded and keeledPolycarpon
Leaves broad-ovate to reniform; sepals neither hooded nor keeled
                       Back to 4
Drymaria
8Sepals fused into a tube9
Sepals free
                       Back to 1
17
9Fruit indehiscent, a 1-seeded nutletScleranthus
Capsule opening by teeth; seeds 2 to many
                       Back to 8
10
10Capsule with 4 teeth11
Capsule with 5, 6, or 10 teeth
                       Back to 9
15
11Flowers enclosed or surrounded by large bracts12
Flowers not surrounded or enclosed by large bracts
                       Back to 10
13
12Bracts herbaceous (at least at apex), surrounding but not enclosing the flowerDianthus
Bracts scarious, broad, enclosing the flower
                       Back to 11
Petrorhagia
13Calyx tube green all overSaponaria
Calyx tube with 5 scarious fissures
                       Back to 11
14
14Sepal midribs wingedVaccaria
Sepal midribs not winged
                       Back to 13
Gypsophila
15Capsule with 5 teeth16
Capsule with 6 or 10 teeth
                       Back to 10
Silene
16Sepals with apex long and folioseAgrostemma
Sepals without apex long and foliose
                       Back to 15
Lychnis
17Capsule teeth 4 or 518
Capsule teeth 6, 8 or 10
                       Back to 8
19
18Leaves closely packed; sepals not hooded; capsule opening at the summit by short teethColobanthus
Leaves spaced; sepals hooded; capsule teeth splitting almost to base
                       Back to 17
Sagina
19Capsule teeth 620
Capsule teeth 8 or 10
                       Back to 17
21
20Capsule conical to globose, opening at the summit by short teethArenaria
Capsule ovoid to oblong, teeth splitting almost to base
                       Back to 19
Stellaria
21Flowers solitary or 3 together in a cyme; capsule straight, opening by 8 teethMoenchia
Flowers many in cymes; capsule curved, opening by 10 teeth
                       Back to 19
Cerastium

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