The below mentioned article provides an overview on Family – Caryophyllaceae. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Explanation on Family – Caryophyllaceae 2. Economic Importance of Family – Caryophyllaceae.
Explanation on Family – Caryophyllaceae:
There are about 80 genera and 2100 species in this family.
The members of this family are commonly found in the temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere. Certain genera are found in the Southern hemisphere and few are found in the mountains of tropical regions. In our country the plants of this family are either found in the hilly tracts or they grow in the plains during winter season, e.g., Stellaria, Spergula, Dianthus, etc.
The family is well represented in the British Flora and many species are cultivated as ornamental garden flowers.
There are about 500 species in the genus Silene of this family, which is supposed to be the largest genus; Dianthus contains 350 species and Stellaria about 100 species.
Most of them are annual, while some of them are perennial herbs. Certain small shrubs, e.g., some species of Acanthophyllum are also found in the warmer parts of the world.
The stem is erect, branched, green, herbaceous, solid and mostly swollen at the nodes.
The leaves are simple, opposite, entire and exstipulate. The leaves sometimes possess shortly connate perfoliate base, e.g., in Dianthus. They are linear to lanceolate in shape. The development of the leaves is unusual. At each node one leaf develops earlier than the other. This leaf bears in its axil a more vigorous bud than on the other side and frequently it is only this bud which develops later.
The chief anatomical feature is the presence of caryophyllaceous type of stomata. Each such stoma possesses two subsidiary cells placed at the right angles to the guard cells.
The inflorescence is cymose. Usually it is a dichasium which later on becomes a dichasial cyme ending in a monochasial cyme. This is known as cincinnus inflorescence which is characteristic of the family. In certain cases the flowers are arranged in racemes. In some of genera, e.g., Arenaria, Githago, etc., the flowers are solitary.
The flowers are pedicellate, actinomorphic, usually hermaphrodite and pentamerous, but rarely unisexual or tetramerous. They are regular, complete and hypogynous. Each typical flower bears five whorls, each consisting of five members, such as, five sepals, five petals, two pentamerous whorls of stamens, five carpels, five styles and five double rows of ovules and sometimes five partition walls in the basal part of the ovary.
It is composed of five and very rarely of four sepals. The sepals may be free or united together into a tube. They are usually persistent with membranous margins. The aestivation is imbricate (quincuncial).
It is composed of five and rarely of four petals. The petals are always free (polypetalous). The petals are mostly notched, sometimes bifid, e.g., Stellaria media. Usually the aestivation is imbricate.
Usually it consists often stamens. Sometimes the number of stamens reduces to eight, five, four, three or even one. They are polyandrous, obdiplostemonous, i.e., the stamens are arranged in two whorls of five each, the stamens of the outer whorl are seen to be opposite the petals and of inner whorl alternating the petals.
The stamens are hypogynous and occasionally perigynous. The anthers are two-lobed and dehisce longitudinally. Sometimes the petaloid staminodes are present. In Spergula, the five or ten stamens are found to be arranged on a perigynous disc.
It consists of two or five carpels; syncarpous. The styles are free. The ovary is superior and unilocular; the ovules are many, campylotropous and arranged on a central column. The placentation is free-central which is most characteristic of the family. The number of carpels corresponds to the number of styles and stigmas. In Stellaria, the number of carpels is reduced to three.
Generally the fruit is an unilocular capsule, e.g., Stellaria, Arenaria, Spergula, etc. In some cases the fruit, may be an achene or a nut, e.g., Herniaria, Dysphania, Scleranthus, etc.
The seeds are small and endospermic. The embryo is curved in the endosperm. Sometimes the funicle is conspicuous. They are dispersed by censor mechanism.
It usually takes place by means of insects (i.e., entomophily).
Description of some important plants in semi-technical language:
1. Saponaria vaccaria L. Eng. Cow-herb; Verna. Musna:
Stem-aerial, erect, herbaceous, cylindrical branched, solid, green glabrous.
Leaf-cauline, ramal, opposite decussate, exstipulate, simple, sessile, entire, acute, glabrous,lanceolate, coriaceous, unicostate reticulate.
Inflorescence- cymose, dichasial cyme.
Flower-bracteate, bracteolate, pedicellate, complete, actinomorphic, hermaphrodite, pentamerous, hypogynous, cyclic.
Calyx-5, gamosepalous, valvate, tubular, persistent.
Corolla-5, polypetalous, twisted, caryophyllaceous, petal distinguished into claw and limb.
Androecium-5 + 5, obdiplostemonous, polyandrous, filaments, long dithecous, versatile, introrse.
Gynoecium-bicarpellory, syncarpous, superior, unilocular free-central, ovules many, styles 2, stigmas 2.
2. Stellaria media Linn.; Verna. Morolia; Eng. Chickweed:
Stellaria media Linn.(Eng. Chickweed). A common weed. Distribution: throughout N. India.
An annual herb, weed, six inches to two feet high. Root: Tap, branched.
Erect, aerial, herbaceous, cylinderical, branched, green, glabrous, solid, nodes swollen
Cauline and ramal, simple, opposite decussate, exstipulate, ½ to 1 inch long, lower petiolate, upper sessile, entire, ovate, acuminate, smooth, unicostate reticulate venation.
Cymose, axillary dichasial or terminal cyme.
Minute, pedicellate, bracteate, bracteolate (two bracteoles), hermaphrodite, complete, actinomorphic, hypogynous, pentamerous, cyclic.
Five sepals, polysepalous hairy, glandular, obtuse or sub-acute, inferior, quincuncial aestivation.
Five petals, polysepalous, petals shorter than sepals, deeply bilobed, inferior, imbricate aestivation, white.
The natives of Assam eat the leaves and tender stalks, boiled in Khar water, either by themselves or with fish. It is used also as vegetable by the natives of the Nilgiris. The plant is employed in plaster for broken bones and swellings, as it is supposed to be cooling and binding.
Ten stamens, arranged in two whorls of five each, polyandrous, obdiplostemonous (two alternating whorls of stamens, the stamens of outer whorl being arranged opposite the petals), generally outer three or all five stamens reduced to staminodes, filaments long and slender, dithecous, basifixed, introrse.
Three carpels, syncarpous, ovary superior, unilocular, free-central placentation, styles three, each with its own stigma.
An unilocular capsule.
3. Spergula arvcnsis Linn.; Eng. Corn spurrey:
Spergula arvensis Linn. (Eng. Com spurrey), plentiful in cultivated ground, flowering during the cold season.
Distribution: throughout N. India.
Erect, cylindrical, branched, solid or fistular, green, herbaceous, thickened at the joints, glabrous.
Cauline and ramal, simple, opposite, linear, sessile, fleshy, leafy buds in their axils and looking apparently whorled, lanceolate, acute, stipulate (stipules small).
Cymose, dichasial cyme with suppression of branches on one side, i.e. cincinnus.
Pedicellate, bracteate, bracteolate (two bracteoles), hermaphrodite, complete, actinomorphic, hypogynous, greenish white, pentamerous, cyclic
Five sepals, inferior, quincuncial aestivation, persistent.
Five petals, polypetalous, white, inferior, entire, imbricate aestivation.
Ten stamens, arranged in two whorls of five each obdiplostemonous, anthers bicelled, introrse, dorsifixed.
3 or 5 carpels, syncarpous, ovary superior, unilocular, free-central placentation, styles three or five, stigmas 3 or 5.
An ovoid capsule.
4. Dianthus caryophyllatus Linn.; Eng. Carnation plant:
An annual herb, ornamental, cultivated.
Erect, aerial, herbaceous, branched, green smooth, solid.
Cauline and ramal, simple, opposite decussate, sessile, exstipulate, sessile, lanceolate, entire, acute, glabrous, unicostate reticulate venation, leaf-base sheathing.
Cymose, axillary or terminal dichasial cyme.
Pedicellate, ebracteate, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, complete, hypogynuous. pentamerous, cyclic.
4, in two whorls of 2 each, outer whorl anterio-posterior.
Five sepals, polysepalous, inferior, quincuncial aestivation
Five petals, polypetalous, petals fimbriate, inferior, imbricate aestivation, variously coloured, caryophyllaceous, each petal possesses a claw and limb.
Ten stamens arranged in two whorls of five each, obdiplostemonous, polyandrous, anthers bicelled, dorsifixed, introrse.
Two-five carpels, syncarpous, ovary superior, unilocular, free-central placentation, ovules many, styles two, stigmas two, coiled and feathery.
Cultivated in Europe as a fodder plant. Used as a diuretic.
Grown as an ornamental in the gardens. The flowers are considered cardiotonic, diaphoretic, nervine and antiseptic.
5. Silence conoida Linn:
An annual herb.
Erect, herbaceous, aerial, branched, solid, cylindric, flat at the nodes, hairy and green.
Cauline and ramal, exstipulate, simple, sessile, opposite decussate, leaf base semiamplexicaul, linear, entire, acute, hairy, leathery, unicostate reticulate.
Cymose, solitary axillary.
The plant is considered emollient and used in baths or as a fumigant. The plant juice is used opthalmia.
Pedicellate, ebracteate, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, complete, cyclic, pentamerous, hypogynous.
5 sepals, gamosepalous, forming a flask-like structure, acute, inferior, green.
5 petals, polypetalous, twisted, caryophyllaceous, pink, inferior.
10 stamens in two whorls, 5 in each whorl, polyandrous, obdiplostemonous, dithecous, basifixed, introrse.
3 carpels, syncarpous, ovary superior, upper region of the ovary possesses free central placentation while the lower region possesses axile placentation, many ovules, styles three, stigmas three and globular.
Economic Importance of Family – Caryophyllaceae:
1. Dianthus barbatus; Eng.-Sweet William-An annual herb, grown in the gardens as an ornamental.
2. Dianthus caryophyllatus; Eng.-Carnation-It is grown as an ornamental.
3. Dianthus chinensis; Syn. D. sinensis’, Eng.-Rainbow pink-This is grown as an ornamental. An annual herb.
4. Arenaria sp.-It is grown as an ornamental.
5. Saponaria vaccaria; Eng.-Cow herb: Verna.-Sabuni-This is an ornamental herb, found throughout India. The plant juice is used as a substitute of soap.
6. Spergula arvensis-li is a common winter season weed. In Europe it is used as fodder. It is diuretic.
7. Stellaria aquatica; Eng.-Chick weed; Verna.-Badeola-The shoots are eaten as vegetable.
8. Gypsophila sp.-An extremely ornamental plant.
9. Lychnis coronaria-In Spain the decoction of roots is used medicinally for the treatment of lung and liver diseases.
10. Silene armeria; Eng.-Sweet William catchfly. This is an annual herb, grown as an ornamental. It is native of South Europe.
11. Cerastium sp.-This is an ornamental plant.
The taxonomists have presented many views for the evolution of Caryophyllaceae. According to Eichler (1878) the family has been originated from the Phytolaccaceae by conversion of the outer whorl of stamens to petals and outer whorl of carpels to stamens. Pax, Wettstein and Rendle have also accepted this view in principle.
Wemham (1911) proposed another view. According to him the family has been evolved from ranalian ancestors and to have been the source of origin for the Primulaceae and other such reduced families, e.g., Amarantaceae and Chenopodiaceae. This view has been accepted by Bessey, Hutchinson and others.
According to Dickson (1936) the family has been derived from the Geraniaceae. Thompson did not agree with this view. The view proposed by Wernham, seems more correct in tracing the probable origin and the systematic relationships of the family.