Electronic Flora of South Australia
Electronic Flora of South Australia
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Electronic Flora of South Australia genus Fact Sheet

Family: Colchicaceae

Citation: Thunb., Nov. Gen. P1. 1:18 (1781).

Derivation: After F. von Wurmb, merchant and botanist in Eighteenth Century Batavia.

Synonymy: Anguillaria R. Br., Prod. Fl. Nov. Holl. 273 (1810).

Common name: Early Nancies.

Small glabrous herbs growing from corms; leaves 2 or 3.

Flowers unisexual or bisexual, flowers on individual plants all bisexual, all male, all female or the lower ones bisexual and upper ones male, 1 to several per plant, sessile, terminal or in a terminal spike; bracts absent; perianth-segments usually 6, connate at the base, sometimes almost free, persistent, each bearing 1 or 2 nectaries; stamens equal in number to the perianth-segments; anthers dehiscing laterally through slits; ovary usually 3-celled; ovules numerous in each cell; styles equal in number to the cells, free or basally connate.

Capsule dehiscing 1oculicidally or septicidally; seeds globular, brown.

Distribution:  19 species in Australia, a similar number in Africa. (T. D. Macfarlane (1980) Brunonia 3:145-208).

Biology: Wurmbea species are probably toxic: all 4 Australian species tested contain the alkaloid colchicine.

Key to Species:
1. Flowers unisexual; nectary 1 per perianth-segment, a continuous transverse ridge or band or occasionally with a slight break at the middle
2. Lower 2 leaves basal; second leaf not dilated at the base
W. latifolia 3.
2. Lower leaf basal; second leaf attached distinctly higher, dilated at the base
3. Perianth white, with white or faint violet nectaries
W. latifolia 3.
3. Perianth white, with dark-purple nectaries, or perianth greenish- yellow with similarly coloured nectaries
W. dioica 2.
1. Flowers bisexual; nectaries 2 per perianth-segment, distinct shelf-like thickenings toward each margin
4. Perianth and nectaries pink or purplish; anthers purple; flowers 1-5 per plant
W. centralis 1.
4. Perianth and nectaries white (sometimes pink when old); anthers yellow; flowers 1, occasionally 2 per plant
W. uniflora 4.

Author: Prepared by T. D. Macfarlane

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