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Genus Asperula Family Rubiaceae

Description: Dioecous perennial herbs.

Leaves opposite, stipules often leaf-like, and leaves appearing to be in whorls of 4–8.

Flowers small, mostly in axillary or terminal cymes or clusters, occasionally solitary, mostly unisexual and plants dioecious. Calyx usually absent. Corolla 4-lobed, funnel-shaped with the tube usually longer than the lobes. Stamens with filaments scarcely fused to the corolla; anthers exserted. Ovary 2-locular, each with 1 ovule; style 2-lobed with a capitate stigma.

Fruit ± fleshy, 2-lobed, indehiscent.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 200 species, mainly Europe & Asia. Australia: 21 species (20 species endemic), all States except N.T.

The stem angles referred to in the key below are the ridges at the corners of the otherwise square stems. Where the angles are very broad, they appear to be the faces/sides of the stems, but are separated by grooves rather than ridges.

Text by T. A. James & W. K. Allen; updated Louisa Murray (August 2011) and K.L. Gibbons (Oct 2019).
Taxon concept: Key from Thompson, I.R. (2009). A revision of Asperula and Galium (Rubieae: Rubiaceae) in Australia. Muelleria 27, p 36–112, adapted by Louisa Murray and K.L. Gibbons.

 Key to the species 
1Flowers bisexual; corolla lobes blue inside and less than half the length of the tubeAsperula arvensis
Flowers unisexual (but with structures of non-functional sex present) and plants dioecious; corolla white all over, lobes c. equal to or longer than tube2
2Leaves and leaf-like stipules all or mostly in whorls of 2 or 43
Leaves and leaf-like stipules all or mostly in whorls or 5 or more
                       Back to 1
3Stipules < 3/4 the length of leaves or absent4
Stipules > 3/4 the length of leaves
                       Back to 2
Asperula gunnii
4Stipules absent or less than 10% the length of leaves5
Stipules present and more than 20% the length of leaves
                       Back to 3
5Corolla tube about a third to a fifth the length of the corolla lobeAsperula gemella
Corolla tube equal to or longer than the corolla lobe
                       Back to 4
Asperula geminifolia
6Trailing herbs; leaves spreading, narrow spathulate (North Coast)Asperula asthenes
Subshrubs (becoming woody basally); leaves erect, narrow-oblong to linear
                       Back to 4
Asperula ambleia
7Leaves with an almost pungent hyaline tip 0.2–0.5 mm long and with a terminal hair, if present, 0.05 mm long (magnifying glass needed to see the hair)Asperula scoparia
Leaves with hyaline tip absent or hyaline tip <0.2 mm long; or if rarely slightly longer then with terminal hair 0.1–0.3 mm long
                       Back to 2
8Leaves of stems and major branches > 10 mm long and with a l:w ratio > 10Asperula charophyton
Leaves < 10 mm long, or if longer, with a l:w ratio < 10
                       Back to 7
9Stem angles with moderately dense fine hairs (generally > 30 hairs per mm of angle); hairs short, not extending more than 0.1 mm out from the surface of the stem10
Stem angles glabrous or hairs sparser than above, or if somewhat dense then the hairs coarse and broad-based and/or etending more than 0.1 mm out from the surface of the stem
                       Back to 8
10Leaves and stipules sub-erect to erect, less than or equal to 1 mm wide; plants becoming woody at base with spongy fissuring bark11
Leaves and stipules generally spreading, usually largest ones > 1 mm wide; plants not becoming woody at base or developing spongy fissuring bark
                       Back to 9
11Stem hairs straight; faces of stems generally much narrower than angles; apex of leaves narrow acute to filiformAsperula subulifolia
Stem hairs generally curving retrorsely; faces of stems generally as broad as or broader than angles; apex of leaves rounded to acute
                       Back to 10
Asperula cunninghamii
12Leaves acuminateAsperula acuminata
Leaves not acuminate
                       Back to 10
13Stem hairs retrorsely curvedAsperula gunnii
Stem hairs more or less straight
                       Back to 12
14Leaves to 1.8 mm wide; plants typically drying very dark brown; hairs needle like in profileAsperula pusilla
Largest leaves mostly > 2 mm wide; plants drying green; hairs generally narrow-triangular
                       Back to 13
15Leaves narrow-cuneate (< 1.5 mm wide 3 mm from base, with l:w ratio of 4–10); larger stems usually with at least one whorl 7- or 8-partite; anthers > 0.5 mm long (male plants); style 2–2.2 mm long (female plants)Asperula polymera
Leaves cuneate (>1.5 mm wide 3 mm from base, with l:w ratio of 2–5); stems usually with all whorls 6-partite; anthers ≤ 0.5 mm long (male plants); style 1.2–1.8 mm long (female plants)
                       Back to 14
Asperula euryphylla
16Stem-angles with moderately dense, more or less spreading hairs > 0.2 mm long; upper surface of leaves with hairs > 0.2 mm long17
Stem angles with either sparse hairs or hairs not spreading, or hairs <0.2 mm long; upper surface of leaves glabrous or with hairs to c. 1 mm long
                       Back to 9
17Leaves and stipules ascending (serpentinite, NE NSW)Asperula hoskingii
Leaves and stipules generally spreading
                       Back to 16
Asperula pusilla
18Leaves tapering mildly towards base (width of base ≥ 1/2 of maximum width), with midrib on underside robust and tending to protrude relative to margins; upper surface of leaves glabrous or rarely with hairs in proximal half; ovary commonly broader than long (face view)19
Leaves tapering moderately to strongly towards base (width of base ≤ 1/2 of maximum width), with midrib on underside generally slender and recessed relative to margins; upper surface of leaves often with scattered minute hairs, particularly towards apex; ovary commonly slightly longer than broad (face view)
                       Back to 16
19Leaves and stipules weakly angled forwards, spreading or pendant, not arching towards the stem; upper surface usually with a smooth medial glossy stripAsperula conferta
Leaves and stipules strongly angled upwards and arching towards the stem (more so in dried specimens); upper surface lacking a glossy strip
                       Back to 18
Asperula wimmerana
20Stem hairs retrorsely curved; leaves generally nearly straight sided, spreading to pendant, with upper surface generally glabrousAsperula pusilla
Stem hairs ± straight; leaves narrowly to very narrowly elliptic, spreading or ascending, with upper surface usually with some hairs
                       Back to 18
Asperula gunnii

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