The Caryophyllidae
Family Overview - The Caryophyllales
Caryophyllaceae - the Pink Family
Diversity:  A large (83-89 genera, ca. 3,000 species - as treated by the Flora of North America), but distinctive family of often Spring-blooming herbs that tend to produce fairly large, showy flowers.  The ethnoflora includes those selected as ornamentals, such as the Carnation (Dianthus) and taxa specialized to occupy human-mediated disturbance (weeds), such as Stellaria media.

Distribution:  Found throughout the World - cosmopolitan - but centered in north-temperate areas.  The Texas flora with 19 genera and 59 species.

Floral structure:

Significant features:  All taxa of the Caryophyllaceae show a distinctive 'subset' vegetative feature; opposite leaves.  In addition, the nodes are often swollen or expanded and petiole bases are often collected across the node by a transverse, stipulate line.  Apetaly and imperfect flowers are rare and most taxa show a full (both calyx and corolla present and distnct) pentamerous (5-parted) perianth with no connation.  The petals can be bifid (two deep lobes) or often with a regular, lacerate (cut) margin (appear to be cut with pinking shears or 'pinked'.  The uniloculate ovary, marked by free central placentation, matures to form a denticidal (dehiscing by terminal valves - photo) capsule.

Cerastrium glomeratum - 'mouse-ear chickweed' showing bifid petals and denticidal capsule Dianthus sylvestris - 'pinked' petals of a 'wild' carnation (sylvestris = wild, not domesticated) Cerastium arvense - bifid petals, 10 stamens, hypogynous with 5 styles emerging from the top of the superior ov

More information on the Caryophyllaceae 

Type Genus?  from Dr. James Reveal:  "In 1753, Linnaeus decided to apply the name Caryophyllus to a group of tropical plants of the family Myrtaceae, and establish Dianthus for a temperate herb long known to pre-1753 botanists as Caryophyllus. In spite of this, post-1753 authors continued to use Caryophyllaceae as the family name for the group of plants that contained the genus Dianthus but exclude the genus Caryophyllus. For the family name to be used (within the rules of nomenclature), Caryophyllaceae has been conserved."  (genera of Myrtaceae)

Return to the Biology 301 homepage, or the Caryophyllidae page
18 Feb 2010