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Genus Maireana Family Chenopodiaceae

Description: Perennial shrubs or herbs; either (1) dioecious, or (2) all flowers bisexual, or (3) bisexual and female flowers on some plants and bisexual and male flowers on others.

Leaves alternate (or rarely opposite), frequently fleshy or succulent, terete, semiterete or flattened.

Flowers bisexual and/or unisexual, axillary, solitary or paired, occasionally gathered towards the ends of the branches into leafy spike-like pseudo-inflorescences. Perianth 5-lobed with or without a tubular base. Stamens 5, opposite perianth lobes. Ovary ± globose; style with 2 or 3 stigmas.

Fruit consisting of an utricle surrounded by a variously enlarged fruiting perianth with a vertical tube and wings or wing-like outgrowths arising from the base of the perianth lobes. The wings sometimes variously adorned with appendages. Seed horizontal to oblique. Widespread, usually in drier regions.


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: 58 species, endemic Australia. Australia: all mainland States.

Key based on Wilson (1975).

Text by S. W. L. Jacobs
Taxon concept:

 Key to the species 
1Fruit with 5 more or less horizontal wings surrounding the upper perianth2
Fruit with a single wing surrounding the upper perianth; appendages or accessory wings may also be present8
2Fruit with erect appendages arising from the upper perianth3
Fruit without erect appendages
                       Back to 1
4
3Wings flat, truncate or rounded at apex; fruit shortly woollyMaireana lobiflora
Wings spine-like; fruit densely silky-woolly
                       Back to 2
Maireana sclerolaenoides
4Fruit wheel-like, with 5 flattened T-shaped lobes, pubescent with curled hairsMaireana cheelii
Fruit with lobed wing or 5 fan-shaped to crescentic lobes; lobes glabrous or hairy
                       Back to 2
5
5Wing of fruit silky-woolly, 5-lobedMaireana eriantha
Wing(s) of fruit glabrous
                       Back to 4
6
6Wing(s) thin, obovate to fan-shaped7
Wings small, imbricate, crescentic, incurved or inflated on margins
                       Back to 5
Maireana enchylaenoides
7Leaves not attenuate at base, often hairy; wing simple and finely crenate if presentMaireana microphylla
Leaves attenuate at base, glabrous; wing of 5 free lobes
                       Back to 6
Maireana brevifolia
8Fruit either less than 5 mm diam. and more or less densely silky-pilose or mostly more than 5 mm diam. and then fruit glabrous with large rounded soft spongy tube9
Fruit not combining the above characters
                       Back to 1
13
9Fruit less than 5 mm diam., more or less densely silky-pilose; tube mostly flat and continuous with the narrow wing10
Fruit (including wing) mostly over 5 mm diam., glabrous with large rounded soft spongy tube; upper perianth more or less flat
                       Back to 8
12
10Upper surface of fruit with an erect cup-shaped appendageMaireana coronata
Fruit with either a central raised pentagonal area or 5 narrow radial ridges
                       Back to 9
11
11Fruit 2.5–4 mm diam., upper surface with a central raised pentagonal areaMaireana pentagona
Fruit c. 4 mm diam., upper surface with 5 narrow radial ridges
                       Back to 10
Maireana ciliata
12Branches with a pale fawn indumentum of dendritic hairs; horizontal wing not decurrent on tubeMaireana campanulata
Branches with a white woolly indumentum of simple hairs; horizontal wing attached by a short decurrent wing to tube
                       Back to 9
Maireana spongiocarpa
13Either 1–5 vertical wings on the tube or above the horizontal wing, or vertical appendages present on upper perianth, or vertical wings on tube and appendages on upper perianth absent and then the plant glabrous apart from axillary hair tufts14
Vertical wings and appendages as above absent, plants variously hairy
                       Back to 8
21
14One to five vertical wings on the tube or above the horizontal wing15
No vertical wings on tube
                       Back to 13
18
15Plant glabrous or almost soMaireana triptera
Plant hairy, at least on branches
                       Back to 14
16
16Leaves villous; perianth lobes erect and longer than the tubeMaireana schistocarpa
Leaves glabrous; perianth lobes not erect
                       Back to 15
17
17Vertical wings running length of tube and united at apex with horizontal wing; perianth lobes prominently woolly-ciliateMaireana erioclada
Vertical wings often present only towards base of tube; perianth lobes arched and prominently tomentose
                       Back to 16
Maireana pentatropis
18Vertical appendages present on upper perianthMaireana lanosa
No vertical appendages present above the wing
                       Back to 14
19
19Upper perianth convex; leaves linear to semiterete, shortly spurred at base; fruit straw-coloured when dryMaireana aphylla
Upper perianth more or less flat; leaves terete; fruit dark brown to black when dry
                       Back to 18
20
20Leaves not fleshy; stem sparsely hairy with short, straight appressed hairsMaireana microphylla
Leaves fleshy; stem sparsely hairy with short woolly hairs
                       Back to 19
Maireana decalvans
21Wing of fruit glabrous22
Wing of fruit pubescent above
                       Back to 13
44
22Upper perianth flat or slightly concave or convex23
Upper perianth columnar with large erect lobes
                       Back to 21
43
23Tube of fruit abruptly narrowed at base into a prominent terete stipe-like base 1–3 mm long24
Tube not forming a prominent stipe-like base
                       Back to 22
25
24Upper perianth convex, open in centre to expose utricleMaireana aphylla
Upper perianth flat or slightly sunken, completely covering utricle
                       Back to 23
Maireana appressa
25Tube expanded into a hollow spongy baseMaireana excavata
Tube not, or scarcely, expanded at base
                       Back to 23
26
26Wing of fruit with radial slit27
Wing of fruit continuous, without a radial slit; leaves semiterete
                       Back to 25
40
27Leaves, branches and flowers closely tomentose with dendritic hairs; leaves obovate; tube and convex upper perianth of fruit pubescentMaireana astrotricha
Leaves and branches with more or less simple hairs or glabrous
                       Back to 26
28
28Fruit large, wing c. 15 mm diam. or more; tube thick-walled, turbinateMaireana georgei
Fruit with wing 5–14 mm diam., tube not thick-walled
                       Back to 27
29
29Tube of fruit pubescent; upper perianth more or less flat; leaves obovate to oblong, succulentMaireana sedifolia
Tube of fruit glabrous; leaves various
                       Back to 28
30
30Leaves flattened, linear to obovateMaireana villosa
Leaves terete, semiterete or obovate
                       Back to 29
31
31Fruit produced into a short, terete, hollow stipe-like base, straw-coloured when dry32
Fruit without a stipe-like base
                       Back to 30
33
32Open, divaricately branched shrub; branches striate and often spinescent; upper perianth convex and open in centreMaireana aphylla
Branches more or less ascending, neither spinescent nor striate; upper perianth flat or sunken and completely covering utricle
                       Back to 31
Maireana appressa
33Upper perianth with a convex disc, open in centre34
Upper perianth more or less flat, concave, or if convex then closed in centre
                       Back to 31
35
34Stem striate; leaves sessile, woolly to glabrescentMaireana aphylla
Stem not obviously striate, leaves narrowed at base, glabrous
                       Back to 33
Maireana rohrlachii
35Upper perianth tomentose36
Fruit glabrous or sparsely villous
                       Back to 33
37
36Wing with fine but obvious radiating veinsMaireana radiata
Wing of fruit with indistinct or no visible veins
                       Back to 35
Maireana integra
37Branches sparsely strigose, sparsely villous or somewhat woolly when very young; leaves slender, 2–10 mm long; wing of fruit finely crenate; flowers in leafy spike-like inflorescencesMaireana microphylla
Branches more or less tomentose, at least on young parts, rarely glabrous; flowers not in leafy spike-like inflorescences
                       Back to 35
38
38Leaves tomentose; fruit straw-coloured when dryMaireana appressa
Leaves glabrous or sparsely villous; fruit brown when dry
                       Back to 37
39
39Upper perianth closed in centre; tube firmMaireana microcarpa
Upper perianth open in centre, exposing the utricle; tube weak
                       Back to 38
Maireana decalvans
40Fruit large, wing c. 15 mm diam., tube turbinate, smoothMaireana turbinata
Fruit small, wing 11 mm or less in diam., tube hemispherical to cupular
                       Back to 26
41
41Leaves 2–5 mm long, appressed on younger branches; wing 4–6 mm diamMaireana ovata
Leaves more than 5 mm long, spreading; wing usually 8–10 mm diam
                       Back to 40
42
42Upper perianth pubescentMaireana integra
Upper perianth glabrous, or almost so, apart from the ciliate lobes
                       Back to 41
Maireana tomentosa
43Leaves 2–6 mm long, shortly pubescent; no vertical wing on tubeMaireana pyramidata
Leaves 5–12 mm long, appressed-villous; tube with a narrow vertical wing
                       Back to 22
Maireana schistocarpa
44Upper perianth erect and columnarMaireana schistocarpa
Upper perianth not erect and columnar
                       Back to 21
45
45Perianth tube thin-walled, base expanded into a hollow stipe; leaves semiterete, c. 10 mm longMaireana trichoptera
Perianth tube with a hard boss-like base; leaves narrow-elliptic to narrow-obovate, mostly 7–12 mm long
                       Back to 44
Maireana humillima

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