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Published In: Tableau du Regne Vegetal 2: 253. 1799. (5 May 1799) (Tabl. Regn. Veg.) Name publication detail

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/26/2009)
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Project Data     (Last Modified On 8/10/2009)


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CHENOPODIACEAE (Goosefoot Family)

(Judd and Ferguson, 1999)

Plants annual or perennial herbs (often shrubs or small trees elsewhere), sometimes monoecious or dioecious, sometimes slightly to strongly succulent, often with a taproot, glabrous or hairy, sometimes mealy (with short, white, inflated hairs that collapse and appear lozenge-shaped with age or upon drying), often tinged with pink to purple. Stems usually with fine longitudinal angles, stripes, or ridges. Leaves alternate or occasionally some leaves opposite, sometimes reduced to inconspicuous scales, simple but sometimes lobed, the margins variously entire, toothed, or wavy. Stipules absent. Inflorescences axillary and/or terminal, spikes, spikelike racemes, or panicles, often reduced to axillary clusters or solitary axillary flowers. Flowers sessile or very short-stalked, usually with 1–3 small, herbaceous bracts (usually 1 outer bract and 2 inner, often smaller bracteoles), imperfect or more commonly perfect, hypogynous (perigynous in Beta). Calyx absent or more commonly of 1–5 sepals, these free or fused toward the base, usually green at flowering, persistent and sometimes becoming hardened or papery at fruiting. Petals absent. Stamens 1–5, absent or reduced to minute staminodes in pistillate flowers, the filaments sometimes fused toward the base, the anthers attached basally or more or less toward their midpoints, usually yellow. Pistil 1 per flower (absent in staminate flowers), the ovary superior (partly inferior in Beta), consisting of 2 or 3 fused carpels, with 1 locule, the placentation usually basal. Styles 1–3, often very short, sometimes fused toward the base, the stigmas 1–3 (4 or 5 in the cultivated Spinacia), slender or capitate, occasionally lobed. Ovule 1 per flower. Fruits achenelike or less commonly capsules, sometimes winged, sometimes beaked, indehiscent or more commonly with irregular or circumscissile dehiscence. Seed 1, often somewhat flattened and lens-shaped, circular in outline or nearly so (the embryo appearing curved or coiled but not always easily observed). About 100 genera, about 1,500 species, worldwide.

The Chenopodiaceae are here treated in the traditional sense as a family separate from the Amaranthaceae. However, a number of morphological and molecular phylogenetic studies (Manhart and Rettig, 1993; Rodman, 1990, 1993; Downey et al., 1997; see also Judd et al., 1999) have presented evidence to suggest that the family as thus circumscribed is paraphyletic; that is, that the genera of Amaranthaceae represent a specialized subgroup within the lineage of Chenopodiaceae rather than a separate sister clade. Because some of the conclusions of these papers are contradictory and a few relationships among genera are yet controversial (such as the placement of Spinacia L.), it seems premature to combine these families in a floristic treatment until more detailed studies can be completed. The morphological features that generally separate the Chenopodiaceae from Amaranthaceae include their stamens with free (vs. basally fused) filaments and herbaceous (vs. papery) perianth and bracts, but numerous exceptions exist.

The family is economically important primarily as a source of food plants, including beets and Swiss chard (Beta), spinach (Spinacia), and grains (Chenopodium). An extract prepared from beets sometimes is used as a food coloring, and the genus is also a source of processed sugar. The family contains a number of noxious weeds of crop fields and sometimes also native plant communities, particularly Russian thistle (Salsola) and the pigweeds (Chenopodium). Members of the Chenopodiaceae are nearly all wind-pollinated and have been cited as causing hay fever. Pollen grains of most Amaranthaceae and Chenopodiaceae are virtually indistinguishable morphologically, and the two families are usually lumped into a single pollen class in projects that monitor airborne spores and pollen for air quality and hay fever reports.

Species of Chenopodiaceae have a well-deserved reputation for being difficult to determine. Users are cautioned that in this family mature fruits are usually necessary for identification of genera and species.


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1 1. Stems succulent, appearing jointed; leaves reduced to tiny, opposite scales; flowers sunken into the stem ... 9. SALICORNIA

2 1. Stems not or only slightly succulent, not appearing jointed; leaves all or mostly herbaceous and well developed; flowers not sunken into the stem

3 2. Stems, leaves, and/or bracts sparsely to densely pubescent with small, stellate hairs

4 3. Leaf blades elliptic or narrowly to broadly lanceolate; flowers all either staminate or pistillate (plants monoecious); fruits sometimes with a small, 2-lobed wing at the tip ... 2. AXYRIS

5 3. Leaf blades linear to narrowly lanceolate; flowers all or nearly all perfect (occasional pistillate flowers sometimes present); fruits usually with a narrow wing around the rim (except sometimes in C. villosum) ... 5. CORISPERMUM

6 2. Plants glabrous or hairy, the pubescence, if present, variously glandular, mealy, and/or of unicellular or multicellular hairs, but the hairs always unbranched

7 4. Leaves and bracts having hard, spinelike tips ... 10. SALSOLA

8 4. Leaves and bracts without spinelike tips, sometimes sharply pointed or with a short, soft, threadlike extension of the midvein at the tip

9 5. Flowers all either staminate or pistillate (plants monoecious); pistillate flowers lacking a calyx (except in A. hortensis), the bracts 2, enlarged, more or less fused basally, and enclosing the fruit ... 1. ATRIPLEX

10 5. Flowers all or nearly all perfect (occasional pistillate flowers sometimes present); pistillate flowers with a calyx (reduced to 1 sepal in Monolepis), the bracts absent or mostly 3, not becoming enlarged, fused, or enclosing the fruit

11 6. Leaves sessile, the leaf blades linear to narrowly lanceolate (rarely the largest leaves oblanceolate), the margins entire

12 7. Stems and/or leaves sparsely to moderately hairy, sometimes becoming nearly glabrous at maturity (if in doubt, check the leaf margins for more persistent hairs) ... 7. KOCHIA

13 7. Stems and leaves glabrous, sometimes glaucous or mealy (with minute, white, lozenge-shaped glands)

14 8. Leaves not fleshy, not or only slightly thickened, relatively flat in cross-section ... 4. CHENOPODIUM

15 8. Leaves fleshy, circular or elliptic in cross-section ... 11. SUAEDA

16 6. Leaves variously shaped, at least the largest ones petiolate, the leaf blades broadly lanceolate or oblong to elliptic, ovate, or triangular, the margins often toothed or lobed, less commonly entire

17 9. Main root with a globose to top-shaped tuberous thickening; ovary partly inferior; fruit dehiscence circumscissile ... 3. BETA

18 9. Roots not tuberous-thickened; ovary superior; fruits indehiscent or irregularly dehiscent

19 10. Calyx of 1 sepal positioned along one side of the ovary; stamen 1 per flower; largest leaves with a pair of prominent, spreading basal lobes, the margins otherwise entire ... 8. MONOLEPIS

20 10. Calyx of (3)5 sepals or (3)5-lobed, the sepals or lobes spaced around the ovary; stamens 35 (absent in rare pistillate flowers); leaves entire to variously toothed or lobed, but not with a single pair of spreading basal lobes

21 11. Calyx at fruiting unwinged or with a low longitudinal ridge along the midvein of each sepal; flowers rarely solitary at the inflorescence nodes, usually in small, dense clusters ... 4. CHENOPODIUM

22 11. Calyx at fruiting with a prominent, papery, continuous, transverse wing; flowers solitary at the inflorescence nodes ... 6. CYCLOLOMA Cycloloma
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