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Family Sterculiaceae

Synonyms: Sterculiaceae APNI*

Description: Herbs, shrubs or small trees, usually with stellate hairs.

Leaves alternate, entire or variously lobed or toothed, often palmately veined; stipules present.

Flowers solitary, or less commonly in terminal spikes or small axillary panicles or clusters; actinomorphic, usually bisexual. Sepals 3–5, ± fused, valvate, often subtended by an epicalyx of 3 or more segments. Petals 5, distinct but usually fused to the base of the staminal column. Stamens numerous, filaments fused in a column surrounding the style, column sometimes lobed and corona-like at the top, anthers 1-locular. Ovary superior; carpels 2–many, often 5, united; ovules 1–many; style branched, branches the same number as carpels or double the number.

Fruit a capsule or schizocarp.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 85 genera, 2000 species, cosmopolitan except for very cold regions, most abundant in warm-temp. & tropical regions, especially South America. Australia: 24 genera, c. 160 species, all States but more common in arid, tropical & subtropical regions.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Malvaceae, Order: Malvales)

The native species are of minor economic importance; the introduced species Gossypium hirsutum L. (Cotton) and Hibiscus cannabinus L. (Kenaf) are commercially important for fibre, and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. and other species are widely cultivated as ornamentals. Some species are weeds.

Text by A. S. Mitchell & E. H. Norris
Taxon concept:

 Key to the genera 
1Trees or shrubs more than 4 m high2
Shrubs less than 4 m high (mostly less than 2 m high) or rarely herbs6
2Leaves palmately 3–9-lobed; fruit a samaraHeritiera
Leaves simple, margins entire to toothed, or lobed; fruit a capsule or follicle
                       Back to 1
3Leaves with petiole more than 20 mm long; margins not toothed; lamina either 3–7-lobed, or unlobed and glabrous or sparsely hairy on lower surface; fruit a follicle, more than 30 mm long4
Leaves with petiole less than 20 mm long; margins mostly irregularly toothed and lamina densely hairy on lower surface, mostly unlobed, sometimes obscurely lobed in juvenile shoots; fruit a bristly capsule less than 20 mm long
                       Back to 2
4Leaves either 3–7-lobed, or entire and glabrous below; follicles stalked, hairy and yellowish brown inside, after opening seeds embedded along baseBrachychiton
Leaves entire and very sparsely stellate-pubescent on lower surface (lens needed); follicles sessile, glabrous and orange inside, after opening seeds attached along upper margins
                       Back to 3
5Capsules 15–20 mm diam., bristly, bristles covered with soft stellate hairs, carpels not separating in fruiting stageCommersonia
Capsules c. 10 mm diam., tomentose but without bristles, carpels separating in fruit
                       Back to 3
6Herbs; stems prostrate to 30 cm long; hairs glandular and stellateGilesia
Shrubs; stems mostly erect, sometimes prostrate; hairs stellate but not glandular
                       Back to 1
7Epicalyx of 3 persistent subulate bracteoles; petals yellow, c. 10 mm longMelhania
Epicalyx absent; petals not yellow, less than 10 mm long
                       Back to 6
8Calyx enlarged in fruit, papery, blue to purplish or white, sparsely or densely pubescentKeraudrenia
Calyx not markedly enlarged in fruit, whitish green to pink to rusty-coloured, tomentose at least on the outside
                       Back to 7
9Capsules covered with bristles 2–5 mm long; calyx not prominent in fruit, not enclosing and shorter than the capsuleRulingia
Capsules without bristles; calyx prominent in fruit, longer than and mostly enclosing the capsule
                       Back to 8
10Calyx lobes 10–15 mm long, linear-subulate, striate; capsule c. 10 mm diam.; peduncle with 1 or 2 fruitsHannafordia
Calyx lobes usually less than 10 mm long, more or less ovate, rarely oblong; capsule usually less than 5 mm diam.; peduncle mostly with many fruits, rarely 1 or 2
                       Back to 9

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