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Genus Zygophyllum Family Zygophyllaceae

Synonyms: Roepera APNI*

Description: Annual herbs or perennial subshrubs with fleshy branches and leaves, glabrous or almost so.

Leaves opposite, usually petiolate, with 1 pair [or rarely several pairs] of leaflets, or sessile and simple, [linear or] apically 2-lobed.

Flowers solitary, axillary, usually pedicellate. Sepals 4 or 5, imbricate, with green centre and membranous margins. Petals 4 or 5, rarely 3 or 6, imbricate, clawed, yellow, white or orange [rarely red]. Stamens 4, 6, 8 or 10. Disc between stamens and ovary sinuate or distinctly 3–5-lobed or 3–5-partite, the lobes at base of septa that separate the loculi of the ovary. Ovary 3–5-locular, 3–5-angled; style subulate; stigma ± globose or lobed.

Fruit a 4- or 5-angled loculicidal capsule, or indehiscent and with 3 or 4 vertical wings, or breaking into 2 or 4 dorsally winged cocci; seeds with endosperm, 1–6 per loculus, often mucilaginous when wet.


Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 150 species, Mediterranean to C Asia, southern Africa & Australia, in deserts and steppes. Australia: c. 30 species, all mainland States and Bass Strait islands.

The genus, as treated here, is heterogeneous; species with non-capsular, winged fruits may be moved to a separate genus Roepera following further study (RM Barker, Fl. Aust. 26, 2013).

Text by Hj. Eichler (1992); edited KL Wilson (Jan 2014)
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Zygophyllum compressum

 Key to the species 
1Fruit 3- or 4-winged, more or less globose in outline, indehiscent or septicidally breaking into up to 4 cocci; filaments without wings or appendages in lower part2
Fruits 4- or 5-angled, more or less globose or obovoid to cylindrical, loculicidal; filaments in lower part often winged or with more or less stipular appendages4
2Fruit 3-winged; stamens 6; leaves sessile, cuneate, with 2 short broad obtuse lobes at apex, upper pairs fused at base; annualZygophyllum howittii
Fruit 4-winged; stamens 8; leaves petiolate, with 1 pair of linear leaflets, upper pairs not fused; mostly perennial
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3
3Petals obovate, obtuse or faintly notched at apex, golden-yellow; fruit 12–18 mm long, splitting into 2–4 cocci when ripe; seeds usually 1 (rarely 2) in each coccusZygophyllum aurantiacum
Petals narrow-oblanceolate, more or less acute at apex, pale lemon-yellow; fruit 8–12 mm long, indehiscent; seeds usually only 1 in each fruit
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Zygophyllum eremaeum
4Capsule 5-locular, 5-angled; flowers 5-merous; stamens 105
Capsule 4-locular, 4-angled; flowers 4-merous; stamens 8 or 4
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6
5Capsule truncate at apex, with a short blunt appendage at upper corner of each angle, more or less turbinate; perennial, woody at baseZygophyllum apiculatum
Capsule rounded at apex, without appendages at the angles, more or less globose; herbaceous annual
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Zygophyllum iodocarpum
6Capsule almost sessile, often more or less erect, narrow-cylindrical to narrow-ellipsoidal, with 4 erect thick appendages at apexZygophyllum prismatothecum
Capsule distinctly pedicellate, drooping, broader, without erect appendages at apex
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7
7Leaflets usually crenate at apex (i.e. with 3 blunt teeth); annualZygophyllum crenatum
Leaflets entire or notched at apex; annual or perennial
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8
8Capsule truncate at apex9
Capsule rounded at apex; annual
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13
9Perennial; capsule 6–11 mm long; petals yellow10
Annual; capsule 5–7 mm long; petals yellow or white
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11
10Leaflets continuous from petiole; petals obovate, 9–12 mm long, longer than the sepals; shrub with more or less self-supporting stems and branchesZygophyllum confluens
Leaflets articulate at base; petals narrow-obovate to elliptic, 4–8 mm long, scarcely exceeding the sepals; shrub with very slender stems and branches, usually leaning on stronger bushes
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Zygophyllum angustifolium
11Petals yellow; at least some filaments with stipular appendages in lower part; leaflets mostly cuneate and distinctly emarginate at apex; capsule broader than long; stamens 8Zygophyllum emarginatum
Petals white; filaments usually broadened in lower part, without stipular appendages; leaflets linear to narrow-oblong rounded or truncate (rarely slightly emarginate) at apex; capsule usually more or less longer than broad; stamens 8 or 4
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12
12Stamens 4; petals narrow-obovate to narrow-elliptic, usually as long as or slightly longer than petals; seeds 3 or 4 per loculus; leaflets narrow-oblong, more or less abruptly truncate, sometimes rounded to almost emarginate at apexZygophyllum ammophilum
Stamens 8; petals cuneate, shorter than to as long as sepals, more or less 3-lobed at apex; seed 1–2 per loculus; leaflets very narrow-obovate, rounded at apex
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Zygophyllum simile
13Petals white, usually shorter than sepals; capsule ellipsoidal, c. 8 mm long; leaflets continuous from petiole; seeds usually 2 per loculusZygophyllum ovatum
Petals yellow, longer than sepals; capsule subglobose and very small or oblong-ovoid and more than 10 mm long; leaflets continuous from petiole or articulate at base; seeds 1, 3 or 4 per loculus
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14
14Capsule subglobose, 3–4 mm long; 1 seed per loculus; leaflets not articulate, cuneate to more or less oblong, ± 1 cm long, mostly notched at apex; petals c. 3 mm longZygophyllum humillimum
Capsule oblong-ovoid to oblong-obovoid, 14–18 mm long; usually 3 or 4 seeds per loculus; leaflets articulate at base, obliquely obovate, 1–4 cm long, rounded at apex; petals 8–15 mm long
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Zygophyllum glaucum

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