The Caryophyllidae
Family Overview - The Caryophyllales
Chenopodiaceae - the Goosefoot Family
fascination with fasciation

Diversity:  A taxonomically difficult group of 100 genera and about 1,500 species as treated by the Flora of North America.  These are mostly herbs, with many weedy annuals, but also some fairly common fruticose taxa.  Many 'chenopods' are halophytic plants adapted to soils with a high salt content, such as beaches and dry lakes.  Since water retention is a primary problem in this type of environment, many species show a fleshy succulence.  The ethnoflora includes the beet (Beta vulgaris), spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and the 'pseudoceral' quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa).

Distribution:  World wide, especially xeric or saline habitats with centers of diversity in South America and Australia.  The Texas flora includes 16 genera and 66 species, many of these common weeds of agricultural fields.

Floral structure:

Significant features:  A difficult family in that the flowers are small and the plants more or less 'streamlined' with few conspicuous characters.  Elements of the family are, however, often common and ecologically important.  Field recognition keys on an 'eye' focused on reduced flowers, often perfect but sometimes unisexual, producing the distinctive, often uniovulate 'beaked' fruit depicted below and a 'fleshy' or succulent aspect to the plant.  Epigyny is rare in the family (only Beta).

thome image  Overview - Beta vulgaris - from Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz

Chenopodium berlandieri with sectioned fruit (left - pericarp, testa, perisperm, embryo), whole fruit (center - reticulate pericarp, darker testa, and 'beak' of the radical), and (right)flower at anthesis:

chenopodium fruit section
Chenopodium  missouriense  - inflorescence - at anthesis C. berlandieri flowers at anthesis C. berlandieri fruit/seed surface  with  dark testa, reticulate pericarp and 'beak' of the radical
C. berlandieri fruit/seed cross sectioned  with  testa, reticulate pericarp and 'beak' of the radical C. berlandieri fruit in long section with embryo, perisperm, testa and pericarp

The Amaranthaceae (pigweed family) is a 'sister' group to the Chenopodiaceae in that all working with classification of the Caryophyllales, regardless of approach, agree that the two families are closely related.  They also share similarities in size, structure, ecological amplitude, and distribution.  These two families are distingusished, for the most part, by connation in the perianth which is common in the Chenopodiaceae and rare in the Amaranthaceae.

More information on the Chenopodiaceae

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