Electronic Flora of South Australia
Electronic Flora of South Australia
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Electronic Flora of South Australia family Fact Sheet


Alternative names: Not Applicable

Annual, biennial or perennial herbs and shrubs; stems and branches often with hollow internodes; leaves spiral; lamina often large and deeply dissected or compound; petiole often broadened and sheathing at the base, rarely (Hydrocotyle and Neosciadium) with stipules.

Inflorescence usually a compound, rarely a simple, umbel, head or short spike (very rarely reduced to a solitary flower); umbels often with bracts (involucre) and umbellules with bracteoles (involucel) at their bases; flowers epigynous, 5-merous, bisexual or unisexual; plants rarely dioecious; sepals usually small or absent; petals valvate or slightly imbricate, often 3-lobed with the terminal lobe inflexed, regular or outer petals, especially of the outer flowers in the umbel, sometimes larger than the inner, usually white, pink or yellow, sometimes greenish; stamens 5, alternate with petals; anthers introrse; carpels 2 (rarely 1) usually joined to form a 2-celled inferior ovary; styles 2 (rarely 1), free, initially bent inwards, swollen at the base to a fleshy epigynous usually 2-lobed nectariferous disk (stylopodium) at the base of which the perianth and stamens are inserted; ovules pendent, 1 in each cell.

Fruit dry, usually separating at maturity from the central axis (carpophore) into 2 nut-like 1-seeded indehiscent mericarps; pericarp membranous or exocarp variously indurated; endocarp sometimes woody (subfamily Hydrocotyloideae); mericarps joined by a narrow or wide commissure, often flattened laterally (compressed at a right angle to the commissural face) or dorsally (compressed parallel to the comissural face), each with 5 longitudinal ribs (costae) over the vascular bundles and longitudinal furrows (valleculae) between them or sometimes 4 secondary ridges alternating with the primary; the primary ribs on the dorsal face are termed 1 dorsal and 2 intermediate fibs; the 2 marginal fibs at the commissure are termed lateral or commissural ribs; resin-tubes (vittae) are often present between the primary ribs and on the commissural face (visible only in transection of the mericarps); seeds with endosperm; embryo minute.

Distribution:  A cosmopolitan family with more than 250 genera and 3,000 species; most abundant in temperate regions. In Australia 42 genera and about 200 species of which 26 are introduced; 17 genera are represented only by introduced species, 4 have both native and introduced species; 10 genera are endemic to Australia. (V. H. Heywood (ed.) (1971), The biology and chemistry of the Umbelliferae, Bot:J. Linn. Soc. 64, Suppl. 1, with comprehensive bibliographies in the individual contributions.)

Biology: No text

Uses: Many Umbelliferae are economically useful and cultivated, e.g., as vegetables: Daucus carota (carrot), Pastinaca satira (parsnip), Apium graveolens (celery), fine herbs: Anethum graveolens (dill), Anthriscus cerefolium (garden chervil), Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), Levisticum officinale (lovage), Petroselinum crispum (parsley), or spices: Carum carvi (caraway), Coriandrum sativum (coriander), Cuminum cyminum (cumin), Pimpinella anisum (anise). Most Umbelliferae, however, are poisonous, some very poisonous, e.g., Conium maculatum (hemlock).

Key to Genera:
1. Leaf lobes and involucral bracts spinose-dentate; plants resembling a thistle; flowers in many-flowered heads
1. Leaves and involucral bracts without spines; plants not thistle-like; flowers in simple or compound umbels, rarely small in heads or spikes
2. Leaves simple, terete, hollow, transversely septate
2. Leaves simple or compound, fiat or flliform, firm, without transverse septa
3. Stipules at the base of the petiole present; leaves simple or palmately compound with 3-5 leaflets
4. Leaf blades simple, cuneate at the base, gradually broadened from the petiole, longer than broad; mericarps with glochidia; annual
4. Leaf blades peltate, or (at least the lower ones) cordate or truncate at the base, or palmately divided into 3-5 leaflets, abruptly set off from the petiole, usually as broad as or broader than long; mericarp-surface smooth or sculptured, not with glochidia; annual or creeping perennial
3. Stipules absent; petioles sometimes broadened at the base with a distinct leaf sheath; leaves simple or variously compound
5. Leaves simple and more or less entire
6. Leaf blades roundish, cordate at the base, distinctly petiolate; flowers solitary or in few-flowered simple umbels; creeping perennial
6. Leaf blades linear to narrow-lanceolate, gradually narrowed at the base, indistinctly petiolate; flowers in compound umbels; plant not creeping
7. Petals yellow; leaves narrow- to linear-lanceolate, stem-clasping, distinctly parallel-veined; umbel surrounded by large involucral bracts; annual
7. Petals creamy- or greenish-white; leaves narrow-linear (the lower sometimes 3-fid), practically sessile, not stem-clasping, without distinct veins; involucre of small subulate bracts; perennial
5. Leaves deeply dissected or compound
8. Fruit with a sterile beak 2-7 cm long
8. Fruit without or with a very short beak
9. Flowers in a simple umbel
10. Fruit with 2 horizontally spreading vertical lanceolate appendages 3-5 mm long at the apex
10. Fruit without apical appendages
11. Leaves bipinnatisect
11. Leaves ternately or palmately dissected or 3-partite
12. Sepals prominent; mericarps 7-9-ribbed; leaves subsessile or very shortly petiolate; involucral bracts lanceolate to ovate or obovate, as long as or longer than the pedicels with flowers
12. Sepals minute; mericarps not or indistinctly 5-ribbed; leaves with long petioles; involucral bracts narrow-linear, shorter than the pedicels
9. Flowers in compound umbels, sometimes sessile and with unequal rays (in Torilis contracted and appearing capitate)
13. Leaves 1-pinnate, at least the lower ones with broad leaflets
14. Petals yellow; basal leaves with 5 -11 irregularly lobed crenate-dentate leaflets; fruits strongly compressed and winged
14. Petals white or pink
15. Outer flowers with 1 petal much larger (4-6 mm long) than the others, deeply cleft into 2 equal lobes; fruit wings with a thickened corrugated margin
15. All flowers with about equal and undivided petals; fruit wings without a thickened corrugated margin
16. Leaflets of basal leaves 15-19, oblong-lanceolate to oblique-ovate, more or less regularly serrate; involucre and involucel conspicuous
16. Leaflets of basal leaves 3-5, ovate-cuneate, usually 3-lobed and toothed; involucre and involucel absent
13. Leaves variously ternately or pinnately partite and dissected (if 1-pinnate leaflets deeply lobed or cut)
17. Fruit with bristles or spines
18. Umbels more or less densely globular, leaf- opposed, subsessile or on short peduncles, rays and pedicels very short
18. Umbels expanded, terminal, pedunculate or, if sessile, sometimes leaf-opposed; rays and pedicels long, sometimes unequal
17. Fruit without bristles, smooth, ribbed and/or tuberculate
19. Umbels along the stem, leaf-opposed
20. Umbels pedunculate; involucre and involucel present; sepals conspicuous; ultimate leaf segments linear-cuneate; perennial
20. Umbels mostly sessile; involucre and involucel absent; sepals obsolete; ultimate leaf segments filiform; annual
19. Umbels terminal, pedunculate
21. Petals yellow or greenish-yellow
22. Ultimate leaf segments cuneate, often crisped; plant 30-75 cm high; involucre of 1-3 bracts; involucel of 5-8 bracteoles; fruit c. 3 mm long, without wings
22. Ultimate leaf segments linear to filiform; plant 60-250 cm high; involucral bracts usually absent
23. Fruit scarcely compressed, without wings, ovoid-oblong, 4-10 mm long; involucel absent
23. Fruit strongly compressed, with thin lateral wings closely appressed to each other, elliptical to oblong-elliptical, 12-15 mm long; involucel of a few linear-lanceolate deciduous bracteoles
21. Petals white or pink
24. Stem with purple blotches; leaves 2-4- pinnate
24. Stem without purple blotches
25. Fruit of 2 almost globular mericarps, rugose, without distinct ribs; styles very short
25. Fruit longer than broad; mericarps smooth except for the longitudinal ribs; styles long
26. All involucral bracts entire or absent; styles erect in fruit; carpophore absent
26. At least some involucral bracts 3-fid or pinnatisect; styles reflexed in fruit; carpophore 2-fid

Author: Prepared by Hj. Eichler

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