The Caryophyllidae
Family Overview - The Polygonales
Polygonaceae - the Buckwheat Family
Diversity:  A family of 43 genera and about 1100 species of herbs (mostly) and some shrubs and (rarely) trees.  The ethnoflora includes, rhubarb (Rheum rhaponicum), a plant grown for its petioles, buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)

Distribution:  Mostly centered in Northern and temperate parts of the World.  The Texas flora includes 8 genera, 69 species and 22 infraspecific taxa..

Floral structure:

Significant features:  Most species of this family, with the exception of the large genus Eriogonum (false buckwheat) show a unique vegetative feature at the node.  A modified stipule encloses the node for form a sheathing structure known as an ocrea.  The nodes also (like the Caryophyllaceae) tend to be swollen and this feature is signaled by the Genus name Polygonum which translates to 'many kneed', a reference to the swollen nodes.  The flowers are small, perfect (usually) and either show a bi- or uniseriate calyx that often continues to develop after anthesis (accrescent) to produce a winged enclosure for the fruit, a trigonal (three-sided) or lenticular (lens shaped) achene.

Polygonum - nodes and ocrea Node of a sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) with ocrea Eriogonum longifolium (the largest genus with 250 species) - flowers  (rare item) Rheum officinale from Kohler's Medicinal Plants

Rumex venosus in fruit (left) and a single, accrescent, winged sepal with the trigonal achene (right)


More information on the Polygonaceae or Phoradendron (campus wild plant -Mistletoe) - Also (Fall flora) Polygonum hydropiperoides vs. P. bicorne

Return to the Biology 301 homepage, or the Caryophyllidae page