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Published In: Genera Plantarum 87–88. 1789. (4 Aug 1789) (Gen. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 6/2/2011)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 6/3/2011)
Contributor Text: C.C. TOWNSEND
Contributor Institution: Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
General/Distribution: A large and almost exclusively tropical family of some 65 genera and over 1000 species, including many cosmopolitan “weeds” and a large number of xerophytic plants.
Type: Type genus: Amaranthus L.
Comment/Acknowledgements: In some tropical Floras keys to the Amaranthaceae have been supplied using as primary division the character of opposite or alternate leaves. Of Pakistani genera of this family Deeringia, Celosia, Bosea, Amaranthus and Digera appear to have leaves constantly alternate, and Pupalia, Achyranthes, Alternanthera, Gomphrena and Iresine opposite. Unfortunately, both Aerva sanguinolenta and Nothosaerva brachiata vary with either opposite or alternate leaves and branches.

Acknowledgement: We are grateful to the United States Department of Agriculture for financing this research under P.L. 480.


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Annual or perennial herbs or subshrubs, rarely scandent. Leaves simple, alternate or opposite, exstipulate, entire or almost so. Inflorescence a dense head, loose or spike-like thyrse, spike, raceme or panicle, basically cymose, bracteate; bracts hyaline to white or coloured, subtending one or more flowers. Flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual (plants dioecious or monoecious), actinomorphic, commonly bibracteolate, frequently in ultimate 3-flowered cymules; lateral flowers of such cymules sometimes modified into scales, spines or hooks. Perianth uniseriate, membranous to firm and finally ± indurate, usually falling with the ripe fruit included, tepals free or somewhat fused below, frequently ± pilose or lanate, green to white or variously coloured. Stamens as many as and opposite to the petals, rarely fewer; filaments free or commonly fused into a cup at the base, alternating with variously shaped pseudo-staminodes or not, sometimes almost completely fused and 5-toothed at the apex with entire or deeply lobed teeth, some occasionally anantherous. Ovary superior, unilocular; ovules 1-many, erect to pendulous, placentation basal; style very short to long and slender; stigmas capitate to long and filiform. Fruit an irregularly rupturing or circumscissile capsule (utricle) usually with thin, membranous walls, rarely crustaceous or a berry. Seeds round to lenticular or ovoid, embryo curved or circular, surrounding the ± copious endosperm.

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1 Plant with fertile flowers subtended by modified sterile flowers formed of antler-like scales or hooked spines (2)
+ Plant with fertile flowers never subtended by modified sterile flowers (3)
2 (1) Leaves opposite; modified sterile flowers represented by hooked spines Pupalia
+ Leaves alternate; modified sterile flowers represented by antler-like scales Digera
3 (1) Filaments fused at the base only; bracteoles not dorsally cristate (4)
+ Filaments fused almost to the tip. The tube 5-toothed, teeth deeply bilobed with the anthers set between the lobes; bracteoles with a vertical crest along the dorsal surface of the midrib Gomphrena
4 (3) Ovary with few to many ovules (5)
+ Ovary uniovulate (6)
5 (4) Fruit a circumscissile capsule; flowers in dense silvery to pinkish spikes; tepals 6-10 mm Celosia
+ Fruit a berry; flowers in racemes, the upper forming a large, broad, terminal panicle; tepals 1.5-2.25 mm Deeringia
6 (4) Pseudo-staminodes absent (7)
+ Pseudo-staminodes present (9)
7 (6) Herbs; fruit a circumscissile or irregularly rupturing capsule (8)
+ Straggling shrub ; fruit a globes berry Bosea
8 (7) Flowers unisexual; stigmas 2-3, linear Amaranthus
+ Flowers hermaphrodite; stigma solitary, capitate Nothosaerva
9 (6) Flowers in spikes or axillary heads, hermaphrodite (10)
+ Flowers in lax panicles, unisexual Iresine
10 (9) Bracteoles mucronate or aristate, but not strongly spinescent; flowers in dense, axillary , sessile or pedunculate heads or spikes (11)
+ Bracteoles strongly spinescent with the long-excurrent midrib; flowers in pedunculate spikes, the lower flowers increasingly distant in fruit Achyranthes
11 (10) Stigma capitate; tepals glabrous of almost so, or with tufts of glochidiate hairs Alternanthera
+ Stigmas 2, distinct, divergent; tepals ±densely lanate Aerva
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