Description: Annual or perennial herbs or rarely shrubs, glabrous.
Leaves entire, palmately or pinnately lobed to 3-pinnatisect, often spinose and pungent.
Inflorescence usually branched, flowers sessile in ± globose to cylindrical heads; involucre of 3 or more leafy spiny bracts; bracteoles small, entire, cuspidate. Flowers bisexual, white, greenish, blue or mauve. Sepals stiff, erect. Petals narrow, with a long inflexed apex, shorter than the sepals. Stylopodium absent.
Fruit ovoid, scarcely laterally compressed; carpophore absent; mericarps covered with small flat or bladdery scales, obscurely 5-ribbed.
Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 250 species, in tropical and warm-temperate areas. Australia: c. 7 species (4 species native, 3 species naturalized), all States except N.T.
Text by J. M. Powell & B. M. Wiecek
Taxa not yet included in identification key
| ||Key to the species|| |
|1||Plants more than 1 m high with broad linear leaves, more than 50 cm long, with slender marginal spines; inflorescence complex, many-branched||Eryngium pandanifolium|
|Plants less than 1 m high with leaves less than 30 cm long, spinose-lobed or pinnatisect with pungent segments; inflorescence more simply branched||2|
|2||Leaves more or less circular or obovate, more than 50 mm wide; flower heads subglobose; bracts broad-ovate||Eryngium maritimum|
|Leaves oblong or oblanceolate, less than 30 mm wide; flower heads shortly ovoid or cylindrical; bracts narrow-ovate or linear|
Back to 1
|3||Flower heads less than 6 mm diam., few-flowered; floral leaves less than 20 mm long, broad||Eryngium expansum|
|Flower heads more than 6 mm diam., many-flowered; floral leaves more than 20 mm long, narrow|
Back to 2
|4||Branches prostrate; flower heads basal or at branch nodes||Eryngium vesiculosum|
|Branches erect; flower heads often terminal between opposite axillary branches|
Back to 3
|5||Flower heads ovoid to globose; bracts spread throughout head, often metallic blue or purplish tinged||Eryngium rostratum|
|Flower heads cylindrical; bracts concentrated at base and apex of head, green|
Back to 4