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Genus Scleranthus Family Caryophyllaceae

Description: Small much-branched annual to perennial herbs.

Leaves linear to subulate, margins ciliate; stipules absent.

Flowers terminal or axillary, sessile or pedicellate, solitary, paired or in dense clusters. Calyx lobes mostly 5, erect or spreading; calyx tube becoming hard and swollen and enclosing the fruit. Petals absent. Stamens 1–10, staminodes occasionally present. Ovary 1-locular; styles and stigmas 2.

Fruit usually a 1-seeded indehiscent nutlet, falling enclosed by persistent enlarged calyx.



Distribution and occurrence: World: 12 species, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand. Australia: 10 species (9 species native, 1 species naturalized), Qld, N.S.W., Vic., Tas., S.A.

Cushion and mat-forming species occasionally cultivated horticulturally in cooler areas. These include S. biflorus and S. uniflorus from New Zealand.

Text by A. Doust (1990); edited KL Wilson (Feb 2014; Sept 2015)
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Scleranthus sp. Fitz's Hill (J.G.West 5342)

 Key to the species 
1Calyx lobes erect, very much shorter than the calyx tube; stamen 12
Calyx lobes more or less spreading, at least as long as the calyx tube; stamens 2–106
2Flowers solitary on scabrous peduncles; bracts 2Scleranthus singuliflorus
Flowers paired on glabrous or hairy peduncles; bracts 4
                       Back to 1
3Stems and bracts with some hairs; leaves in fascicles; plant usually prostrate, spreading, straggly and lax4
Stems and bracts glabrous; leaves not in fascicles; plant usually cushion-like, dense, compact
                       Back to 2
4Diaspore (fruit and surrounding persistent calyx) urceolate, i.e. with a well-defined 'neck' at the base of the sepal lobes, with strongly thickened longitudinal ribs; lobes incurved to apexScleranthus sp. Fitzs Hill (J.G.West 5342)
Diaspore ovate, i.e. lacking a well-defined neck, with obscure or narrow longitudinal ribs; lobes more or less straight, coming to a point at the apex
                       Back to 3
Scleranthus fasciculatus
5Sepals 4; stamens level with or exserted beyond top of sepals, long-persistentScleranthus biflorus
Sepals 5; stamens shorter than sepals, shed early
                       Back to 3
Scleranthus brockiei
6Flowers shortly pedicellate; calyx lobes linear, sometimes with narrow, scarious margins7
Flowers not pedicellate; calyx lobes lanceolate, often with wide scarious margins
                       Back to 1
7Leaves crowded together in pseudwhorls separated by internodes usually more than 8 mm long; stamens 5–10Scleranthus annuus
Leaves not crowded together, distributed evenly along the stem; stamens 2
                       Back to 6
Scleranthus minusculus
8Leaves pungent; calyx lobes pungent; flowers with 5 stamens and 5 linear staminodesScleranthus pungens
Leaves acute but not pungent; calyx lobes more or less acute; stamens 2
                       Back to 6
Scleranthus diander

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