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Family Commelinaceae

Synonyms: Cartonemataceae APNI*

Description: Perennial, rarely annual, mesophytic herbs.

Leaves alternate, spirally arranged or distichous, with a closed sheath that is often ciliate at the mouth; lamina with parallel veins, often narrowed to a pseudo-petiole.

Inflorescences terminal and/or axillary, thyrses consisting of a central axis bearing several to many lateral monochasial cymes, often variously reduced and partly enclosed by a spathe-like bract. Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic, 3-merous, usually bisex ual. Tepals 6, in 2 whorls of 3; outer tepals mostly green and uniform; inner tepals usually free, equal or unequal, white, pink, blue or purple. Stamens 6, in 2 whorls of 3, similar or dissimilar, all fertile or some reduced to staminodes; filaments glabrous or bearded; anthers usually 2-locular, basifixed or dorsifixed, dehiscing by longitudinal slits or rarely apical pores or slits. Ovary superior, 2- or 3-locular; ovules few–many.

Fruit usually a loculicidal capsule; seeds small and hard.

Distribution and occurrence: World: 42 genera, c. 620 species, mainly tropical regions. Australia: 9 genera, c. 25 species, all States.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Commelinaceae, Order: Commelinales)

Many species are grown horticulturally. Cartonema (6 spp., endemic Aust.) is sometimes separated in its own family, the Cartonemataceae.

Text by Peter G. Wilson
Taxon concept:

 Key to the genera 
1All stamens fertile2
Fertile stamens 2 or 3 only; staminodes present4
2Leaves less than 10 cm long; inflorescence a small cluster or clusters of flowers; plants with slender prostrate or trailing stems3
Leaves mostly 15–30 cm long; inflorescence elongated; erect plants to c. 1 m high
                       Back to 1
3Flower clusters enclosed by big conspicuous spathe-like bracts; flowers sessile or shortly pedicellateTradescantia
Flower clusters not enclosed by big spathe-like bracts; flowers long-pedicellate
                       Back to 2
4Inflorescence enclosed in a spathe-like bractCommelina
Inflorescence not enclosed by a bract
                       Back to 1
5Fruit an indehiscent nut, bluePollia
Fruit a dehiscent capsule, green to brown
                       Back to 4
6Inner tepals white; fertile stamens grouped together, filaments not beardedAneilema
Inner tepals pink to mauve; fertile stamens alternating with staminodes, filaments bearded
                       Back to 5

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