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Genus Asperula Family Rubiaceae

Description: Dioecous perennial herbs.

Leaves opposite, stipules often leaf-like, and leaves appearing to be in whorls of 4–8.

Flowers small, mostly in axillary or terminal cymes or clusters, occasionally solitary, mostly unisexual and plants dioecious. Calyx usually absent. Corolla 4-lobed, funnel-shaped with the tube usually longer than the lobes. Stamens with filaments scarcely fused to the corolla; anthers exserted. Ovary 2-locular, each with 1 ovule; style 2-lobed with a capitate stigma.

Fruit ± fleshy, 2-lobed, indehiscent.


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 200 species, mainly Europe & Asia. Australia: 21 species (20 species endemic), all States except N.T.

Text by T. A. James & W. K. Allen; updated Louisa Murray (August 2011)
Taxon concept:

 Key to the species 
1Flowers blue; margins of leafy inforescence bracts significantly ciliateAsperula arvensis
Flowers white; margins of bracts not as above2
2Leaves either 2 per node or in whorls of 43
Leaves and stipules in whorls or 5 or more
                       Back to 1
7
3Stipules absent or less than 10% the length of the leaves4
Stipules present and the same number as the leaves
                       Back to 2
5
4Corolla tube about a third to a fifth the length of the corolla lobeAsperula gemella
Corolla tube equal to or longer than the corolla lobe
                       Back to 3
Asperula geminifolia
5Traililng herbs;leaves spreading, narrow spathulate (North Coast)Asperula asthenes
Subshrubs (becoming woody basally; leaves erect, narrow-oblong to linear
                       Back to 3
6
6Leaves erect, narrow-oblong to narrow-linear, 2–6 mm longAsperula ambleia
Leaves spreading or ascending, narrow to very narrow elliptic, narrow-obovate or oblanceolate, 2–9 mm long
                       Back to 5
Asperula gunnii
7Leaves with an almost pungent hyaline tip 0.2–0.5 mm long and with a terminal hair 0.05 mm long (magnifying glass needed to see the hair)Asperula scoparia
Leaves with hyaline tip absent or hyaline tip <0.2 mm long; or if rarely slightly longer then then terminal hair 0.1–0.3 mm long
                       Back to 2
8
8Leaves of stems and major branches > 10 mm long and with a l:w ratio > 10Asperula charophyton
Leaves < 10 mm long, or if longer, with a l:w ratio < 10
                       Back to 7
9
9Stem hairs of fine and short hairs, both moderately dense, hairs not exceeding 0.1 mm out from the surface of the stem10
Stem hairs absent or sparser than above, or if dense then the hairs coarse and broad-based and or exceeding 0.1 mm out from the surface of the stem
                       Back to 8
15
10Leaves and stipules sub-erect to erect, less than or equal to 1 mm wide; plants becoming woody at base with spongy fissured bark11
Leaves and stipules generally spreading, usually largest ones > 1 mm wide; plants not becoming woody at base or developing spongy fissured bark
                       Back to 9
12
11Apex of leaves narrow acute to filiformAsperula subulifolia
Apex of leaves rounded to acute
                       Back to 10
Asperula cunninghamii
12Stem hairs retrorsely curvedAsperula gunnii
Stem hairs more or less straight
                       Back to 10
13
13Leaves to 1.8 mm wide; plants typically drying very dark brown; hairs needle like in profileAsperula pusilla
Largest leaves mostly > 2 mm wide; plants drying green; hairs generally narrow-triangular
                       Back to 12
14
14Leaves narrow-cuneate; style 2–2.2 mm longAsperula polymera
Leaves cuneate; style 1.2–1.8 mm long
                       Back to 13
Asperula euryphylla
15Stem-angles with moderately dense, more or less spreading hairs > 0.2 mm long16
Stem angles with either sparse hairs or hairs not spreading, <0.2 mm long
                       Back to 9
17
16Leaves and stipules ascending (serpentine, NE NSW)Asperula hoskingii
Leaves and stipules generally spreading
                       Back to 15
Asperula pusilla
17Leaves and stipules suberect, spreading or pendant, not arching towards the stem; upper surface usually with a smooth medial glossy stripAsperula conferta
Leaves and stipules strongly angled upwards and arching towards the stem (more so in dried specimens); upper surface lacking a glossy stip
                       Back to 15
Asperula wimmerana

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