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Family Piperaceae

Synonyms: Peperomiaceae APNI*

Description: Climbers, herbs, subshrubs, shrubs or sometimes small trees, with stems often jointed and enlarged/swollen at the nodes; often succulent (Peperomia); many epiphytic or growing on rocks (Peperomia), often aromatic.

Leaves usually alternate, rarely opposite or whorled, simple, often oil gland-dotted, mostly entire, pinnately or palmately veined, sometimes succulent; [petiole frequently winged and sheathing the stem]; stipules present (often shed early) and adnate to petiole or absent.

Inflorescence axillary, leaf-opposed or terminal, erect to pendulous, usually condensed, raceme or spike, occasionally sparsely branched. Flowers minute, usually sessile or sometimes pedicellate, subtended by a minute, fleshy, often peltate bract, bisexual or unisexual and then plants monoecious. Perianth absent. Stamens 1–10, often with opposite, discrete loculi; anthers 2-locular, free or (in Peperomia) confluent, dehiscing longitudinally. Ovary superior, of 1–4 (–5) fused carpels, usually 1-locular with a basal or subbasal ovule; stigmas 1–several; style short or absent; ovary surrounded by 3 scale-like bracts.

Fruit a berry-like drupe, often sunken into the axis or fused to the bracts; seed 1.

Distribution and occurrence: World: 5 genera, 3615 species, pantrop., chiefly in rainforest. Aust.: 2 genera, c. 20 species (several naturalised), Qld, N.S.W., N.T., W.A., Ch.I.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Piperaceae, Order: Piperales)

Text by based on G.J. Harden, Fl. NSW Vol. 1 (1990); updated by P.G. Kodela, March 2017
Taxon concept: Australian Plant Census (accessed March 2017)

 Key to the genera 
1Vine, shrub, subshrub or woody herb to 4 m high [rarely small trees], often with swollen nodes; leaves with lamina mostly more than 5 cm long and more than 2 cm wide; stipules usually present (often shed early leaving scars), often adnate to petiole; stamens 2–6; stigmas 2–5Piper
Somewhat fleshy perennial herb to 30 cm high, often epiphytic or lithophytic; leaves with lamina less than 8 cm long and up to 3 cm wide; stipules absent; stamens 2; stigmas 1Peperomia

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