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Genus Capparis Family Capparaceae

Description: Small trees or shrubs, often ± climbing and with prominent stipular spines in juvenile stages; spines smaller or absent from fertile shoots. Juvenile leaves often different from adult foliage. Young growth often rusty-pubescent.

Flowers axillary, mostly solitary or in pairs. Sepals 4, outer 2 fused or free in bud. Petals 4, unequal. Disc present. Stamens 6–many, spreading, longer than the petals. Gynophore c. as long as stamens; ovary 1-locular with few to many ovules.

Berry mostly indehiscent, globose to sub-cylindrical, smooth or sculptured, pericarp usually thick, often corky or leathery; fruit usually pendent on a long stalk (pedicel plus the elongated gynophore).


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: 250 species, tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: 18 species (13 species endemic), all mainland States.

C. lucida (Banks ex DC.) Benth. has been recorded as occurring north of the Clarence River; however, the record for N.S.W. is unsubstantiated. This species has been confused with C. arborea, with which it differs in the gynophore being hairy towards the base during anthesis and the 2–14 flowers being arranged in a terminal corymb. Ref. Jacobs (1965).

Text by G. J. Harden
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Capparis canescens

 Key to the species 
1Leaves less than 30 mm long, mostly 2-ranked and the stems zigzag; usually twining or scrambling plants, rarely erect shrubs2
Leaves more than 30 mm long, not distinctly 2-ranked and twigs not zigzag; mostly erect shrubs or trees, often scrambling in juvenile stage5
2Leaves more or less ovate, less than 2 times as long as wide3
Leaves narrow-oblong, more than 4 times as long as wide. (Juveniles climbing or scrambling)
                       Back to 1
Capparis lasiantha
3Spines 1–3 mm long, mostly recurved; apex of leaves not spinescent4
Spines 4–15 mm long, straight; apex of leaves spinescent. (Juveniles climbing or scrambling.)
                       Back to 2
Capparis arborea
4Mature leaves glabrous, apex obtuse to notched; petiole 0–2 mm longCapparis sarmentosa
Leaves mostly pubescent on both surfaces, rarely glabrous above, apex acute; petiole 2–3 mm long. (Juveniles mostly scrambling.)
                       Back to 3
Capparis mitchellii
5Leaves densely hairy on both surfaces6
Leaves at least glabrous above
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7
6Branchlets and leaves covered with a more or less orange-brown indumentum, later often turning greyish; leaves more or less ovate to narrow-oblong, base rounded; petiole 2–4 mm longCapparis lasiantha
Branchlets and leaves usually covered with yellowish to greyish indumentum; leaves more or less obovate to oblanceolate, tapering to base; petiole 6–15 mm long
                       Back to 5
Capparis mitchellii
7Leaves <4 times as long as wide or >15 mm wide; petiole mostly >5 mm long or rarely ± absent8
Lamina >4 times as long as wide and <15 mm wide; petiole usually 2–5 mm long
                       Back to 5
Capparis loranthifolia
8Secondary veins obscure, 3 or 4 pairs; lamina tapering into petioleCapparis mitchellii
Secondary veins distinct, 6–10 pairs; lamina rounded at base
                       Back to 7
9
9Leaves glabrous on lower surface; tree or scrambling shrub; inner sepals 8–11 mm wideCapparis arborea
Leaves pubescent on lower surface; tall scrambler or vine: inner sepals 4–6.5 mm wide
                       Back to 8
Capparis velutina

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