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Published In: Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, des plantes 8: 177. 1804. (Hist. Nat. Pl.) Name publication detail

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/26/2009)
Acceptance : Accepted

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COMMELINACEAE (Spiderwort Family)

Plants annual or perennial herbs, the roots sometimes thickened and fleshy or tuberlike. Stems usually branched, sometimes somewhat succulent. Leaves alternate, herbaceous or sometimes slightly succulent, often folded longitudinally, the bases forming tubular sheaths. Veins parallel, a pronounced midvein usually present. Inflorescences terminal and/or axillary clusters of flowers, these subtended by folded, leaflike or spathelike bracts. Flowers perfect, radially or bilaterally symmetric. Sepals 3, free, herbaceous, green. Petals 3, usually free, variously colored, sometimes 1 petal different in size and shape than the other 2. Stamens 6 or if only 3 then 2 or 3 staminodes also present, usually free. Ovary 1 per flower, superior, with 2B3 locules. Style and stigma 1, the stigma usually capitate. Fruits capsules, with 3B9, small, circular to oblong, flattened seeds. About 50 genera, 600B700 species, nearly worldwide, but mostly tropical to subtropical.

The petals of most members of the Commelinaceae are very ephemeral, lasting only part of a day and wilting (along with the foliage) practically immediately if the stems are picked. The perianth parts of pressed flowers also either become distorted during drying or adhere to the pressing papers and are lost. The species are therefore most easily keyed while still fresh, and particularly such structures as the minutely gland-tipped hairs of some Tradescantia species are much more easily noted in living plants.


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1 Flower clusters subtended by a strongly folded, spathelike bract that is shorter and somewhat differently shaped than the foliage leaves; lowermost petal differently shaped and shorter than the upper 2; fertile stamens 3; staminodes 2 or 3 1 Commelina
+ Flower clusters subtended by 1 or 2 bracts indistinguishable from the foliage leaves; petals all the same shape and size; fertile stamens 6; staminodes absent 2 Tradescantia
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