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Family Malvaceae

Synonyms: Sterculiaceae APNI*
Tiliaceae APNI*
Bombacaceae APNI*

Description: Herbs, shrubs or trees, rarely climbers, usually with stellate hairs, rarely with simple hairs, peltate scales or plants glabrous.

Leaves alternate, simple or palmately compound; margins entire or variously lobed or toothed; venation often 3–5 from base; stipules usually present, sometimes absent or falling early.

Inflorescences axillary, leaf-opposed or terminal, few to many-flowered cymes or panicles, occasionally in terminal spikes, or flowers solitary or paired. Flowers usually actinomorphic, usually bisexual, occasionally unisexual and then plants monoecious or dioecious. Sepals (3–)5, often subtended by an epicalyx of 3 or more segments, free or fused at base, sometimes persistent in fruit; aestivation valvate. Petals 5 (or as many as sepals), free or occasionally fused to the base of the staminal column, sometimes minute and scale-like or absent. Stamens (5–)many; filaments often fused into a column surrounding the style, sometimes free or fused to base of petals, or subsessile on an androgynophore; staminal column sometimes lobed and corona-like at apex; staminodes often present; anthers 1 or 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits or terminal pores. Ovary usually superior; gynophore sometimes present; carpels (1–)2–many, often 5, free or united; styles free or united, simple or branched; branches usually as many or twice as many as carpels.

Fruit a loculicidal capsule, schizocarp, follicle or rarely a berry or samara. Seeds sometimes winged, pubescent or arillate, endosperm abundant to absent.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 245 genera, 4000-5000 species, cosmopolitan except for very cold regions, most abundant in warm-temp. & tropical regions, especially South America. Australia: 68 genera and c. 760 species, all States but more common in arid, tropical & subtropical regions.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Malvaceae, Order: Malvales)

This broad circumscription of Malvaceae, based on Bayer et al. (1999, includes subfamilies, some of which are accepted as families in Queensland. See Messina, Malvaceae, Flora of Australia Online for further details and subfamilial descriptions.

The native species are of minor economic importance; some species of Argyrodendron are used for timber, as is the introduced Tilia. The introduced species Gossypium hirsutum L. (Cotton), Hibiscus cannabinus L. (Kenaf) and Corchorus olitorius (Jute) are commercially important for fibre, and other species are widely cultivated as ornamentals.

Text by A. S. Mitchell & E. H. Norris; updated by K.L. Gibbons, 15 Jun. 2023.
Taxon concept: APG IV; A. Messina, Flora of Australia Online [accessed 14 Jun. 2023]; Bayer et al. (1999). Support for an expanded family concept of Malvaceae within a recircumscribed order Malvales: a combined analysis of plastid atpB and rbcL DNA sequences. Bot. J. Linnean Soc. 129: 267–303.

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Androcalva,    Ceiba,    Corchorus,    Grewia,    Malvaviscus,    Triumfetta

 Key to the genera 
1Fertile stamens >twice as many as sepals (MALVACEAE)2
Fertile stamens up to twice as many as sepals (STERCULIACEAE)20
2Epicalyx present (falling early in Lagunaria)3
Epicalyx absent
                       Back to 1
3Epicalyx segments 34
Epicalyx segments 5 or more
                       Back to 2
4Fruit a capsule; shrubs or trees5
Fruit a schizocarp (sometimes appearing circumsciss); herbs (stout and erect in Lavatera)
                       Back to 3
5Trees or tall shrubs; leaves covered with peltate scales, lacking oil glands; seeds glabrous; capsule covered with fine spiculesLagunaria
Shrubs; leaves more or less glabrous, containing oil glands; seeds usually hairy; capsule without spicules
                       Back to 4
6Flowers pink, white or bluish lilac; styles stigmatose longitudinally7
Flowers yellow, orange or red; styles capitate
                       Back to 4
7Epicalyx segments united for most of their length, margins crenate to toothedLavatera
Epicalyx segments free or united at the base, margins entire
                       Back to 6
8Flowers solitary, pedunculate, orange to red; creeping herbs rooting at nodesModiola
Flowers more or less sessile in spikes or racemes; orange to yellow; erect herbs
                       Back to 6
9Fruit a schizocarp10
Fruit a capsule
                       Back to 3
10Mericarps uniformly covered with spines; shrubs to 3 m highUrena
Mericarps lacking spines; small shrubs or erect annuals to 3 m high
                       Back to 9
11Epicalyx segments more than 5, united at base; petals c. 4 cm long, pale pink, white or purple; erect herbs to 3 m highAlcea
Epicalyx segments 5, free; petals c. 1 cm long, reddish purple; spreading shrubs to 1.5 m high
                       Back to 10
12Calyx spathe-like, splitting on one side at anthesis and falling with corolla after floweringAbelmoschus
Calyx neither spathe-like nor splitting as above, usually persistent after flowering
                       Back to 9
13Styles undivided to stigmas; calyx and epicalyx segments dilated at apex; capsule appearing 10-valved at maturity with septicidal dehiscenceRadyera
Styles branched to well below stigmas; calyx and epicalyx not dilated at apex; capsule loculicidally 5-valved
                       Back to 12
14Flowers pink, blue or purple15
Flowers yellow, orange, cream, greenish cream to white or red
                       Back to 2
15Fruit a capsule, usually 3–5-valved; leaves not lobed16
Fruit a schizocarp with 11–15 mericarps; leaves 3–5-lobed
                       Back to 14
16Capsule less than 1 cm long; petals c. 1 cm long, purple; leaves stellate-hairyHowittia
Capsule 2–3 cm long; petals 3–4 cm long, usually pink, sometimes mauve; leaves covered with peltate scales
                       Back to 15
17Styles stigmatose for at least a third of their length; at least some flowers unisexual, flowers white to green or red, rarely yellow and then flowers always unisexual18
Styles capitate; all flowers bisexual, yellow or orange
                       Back to 14
18Tall shrubs to 3 m; flowers white to cream, more or less sessile or pedicellate in axillary panicles; eastern parts of the StateGynatrix
Erect perennial herbs to 60 cm or spreading shrubs to 1 m; flowers green to white, yellow or red, 1–3 more or less sessile in axils, often forming leafy spikes; western parts of the State
                       Back to 17
19Ovules more than 2 in each loculus; mericarps papery, 2-valved, with a narrow back and smooth papery sidesAbutilon
Ovules solitary in each loculus; mericarps hard, often indehiscent, with a wide back and honeycombed or reticulate sides
                       Back to 17
20Trees or shrubs more than 4 m high21
Shrubs less than 4 m high (mostly less than 2 m high) or rarely herbs
                       Back to 1
21Leaves palmately 3–9-lobed; fruit a samaraArgyrodendron
Leaves simple, margins entire to toothed, or lobed; fruit a capsule or follicle
                       Back to 20
22Leaves with petiole more than 20 mm long; margins not toothed; lamina either 3–7-lobed, or unlobed and glabrous or sparsely hairy on lower surface; fruit a follicle, more than 30 mm long23
Leaves with petiole less than 20 mm long; margins mostly irregularly toothed and lamina densely hairy on lower surface, mostly unlobed, sometimes obscurely lobed in juvenile shoots; fruit a bristly capsule less than 20 mm long
                       Back to 21
23Leaves either 3–7-lobed, or entire and glabrous below; follicles stalked, hairy and yellowish brown inside, after opening seeds embedded along baseBrachychiton
Leaves entire and very sparsely stellate-pubescent on lower surface (lens needed); follicles sessile, glabrous and orange inside, after opening seeds attached along upper margins
                       Back to 22
24Capsules 15–20 mm diam., bristly, bristles covered with soft stellate hairs, carpels not separating in fruiting stageCommersonia
Capsules c. 10 mm diam., tomentose but without bristles, carpels separating in fruit
                       Back to 22
25Herbs; stems prostrate to 30 cm long; hairs glandular and stellateGilesia
Shrubs; stems mostly erect, sometimes prostrate; hairs stellate but not glandular
                       Back to 20
26Epicalyx of 3 persistent subulate bracteoles; petals yellow, c. 10 mm longMelhania
Epicalyx absent; petals not yellow, less than 10 mm long
                       Back to 25
27Calyx enlarged in fruit, papery, blue to purplish or white, sparsely or densely pubescentSeringia
Calyx not markedly enlarged in fruit, whitish green to pink to rusty-coloured, tomentose at least on the outside
                       Back to 26
28Capsules covered with bristles 2–5 mm long; calyx not prominent in fruit, not enclosing and shorter than the capsuleCommersonia
Capsules without bristles; calyx prominent in fruit, longer than and mostly enclosing the capsule
                       Back to 27
29Calyx lobes 10–15 mm long, linear-subulate, striate; capsule c. 10 mm diam.; peduncle with 1 or 2 fruitsHannafordia
Calyx lobes usually less than 10 mm long, more or less ovate, rarely oblong; capsule usually less than 5 mm diam.; peduncle mostly with many fruits, rarely 1 or 2
                       Back to 28

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