Family Overview - Commelinales
Name the family
Distribution: Worldwide, but mostly tropical and subtropical with considerable diversity extending into northern temperate regions. We have 6 genera and 24 species in Texas with one endemic genus and five species of Tradescantia known only from Texas.
Significant features: Plants of this family show a characteristic vegetative 'fleshy' aspect that often includes a mucilaginous, slimy sap ('snotweed' sometimes applied as a local name) that, on exposure to air, dries to form a weblike mass ('spiderwort'). The alternate, entire, and monocot-like leaves include a sheathing base that is often enclosed around swollen nodes that produce a 'jointed stem'. While normally actinomorphic, some genera (see below) show reduction of one petal to produce zygomorphy and flowers/inflorescences are often subtended by a spathe. The sepals, often green, are distinct from the petals which, due to their thin, delicate structure, are often ephemeral (wilting shortly after anthesis - 'day flower'). Many genera have masses of multicellular trichomes attached to the filaments and a subset of the six stamens often show some type of modification (staminodes).