The families of flowering plants

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Asteliaceae Dum.

~ Former Liliaceae.

Habit and leaf form. Trees (to 10 m), or ‘arborescent’, or shrubs, or herbs (dwarf to large). ‘Normal’ plants. Perennial; with a basal aggregation of leaves, or with terminal aggregations of leaves, or without conspicuous aggregations of leaves; rhizomatous, or tuberous. Self supporting, or epiphytic (on trees). Mesophytic, or xerophytic. Leaves medium-sized, or large; alternate; spiral, or distichous; ‘herbaceous’, or leathery; petiolate (rarely), or subsessile, or sessile; sheathing; simple. Lamina entire; linear, or lanceolate, or oblong, or ovate; parallel-veined; without cross-venules. Lamina margins entire.

Leaf anatomy. The leaf lamina dorsiventral. Stomata present; paracytic. Hairs present; eglandular; multicellular. Multicellular hairs branched. Complex hairs present; stellate (or scales). Adaxial hypodermis present (unusual, among asparagoids). Lamina with secretory cavities, or without secretory cavities (Milligania). Secretory cavities when present, containing mucilage. The mesophyll containing crystals. The crystals raphides and solitary-prismatic. Foliar vessels absent. Minor leaf veins without phloem transfer cells (Cordyline).

Axial (stem, wood) anatomy. Secondary thickening absent, or anomalous (e.g. Cordyline). The anomalous secondary thickening from a single cambial ring. The axial xylem without vessels.

Root anatomy. Root xylem with vessels; vessel end-walls scalariform.

Reproductive type, pollination. Plants hermaphrodite, or polygamomonoecious. Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the gynoecium (via septal nectaries).

Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in racemes, or in spikes. The ultimate inflorescence units racemose. Inflorescences terminal; racemes or spikes. Flowers regular; 3 merous (usually), or 5–7 merous (Neoastelia); cyclic; pentacyclic. Perigone tube present, or absent.

Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6 (usually), or 10–14 (Neoastelia); free, or joined; 2 whorled; isomerous; petaloid; similar in the two whorls; green, or white, or violet, or brown.

Androecium 6. Androecial members adnate (to the perianth); all equal; free of one another; 1 whorled (?), or 2 whorled (at least sometimes). Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 6; diplostemonous; alterniperianthial (at least sometimes). Anthers basifixed (or nearly so); dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate; unappendaged. The endothecial thickenings spiral. Microsporogenesis successive, or simultaneous (Milligania). Tapetum glandular. Pollen grains aperturate; 1 aperturate; sulcate; commonly spinulose; 2-celled (Cordyline).

Gynoecium 3(–4) carpelled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth (usually), or increased in number relative to the perianth. The pistil 3 celled (usually), or 1 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary 3 locular (usually), or 1 locular (rarely, when G4). Gynoecium non-stylate, or stylate. Styles 1; apical. Stylar canal present. Stigmas 1; dry type. Placentation when unilocular parietal; axile. Ovules in the single cavity when unilocular, 4–15; 4–15 per locule; anatropous, or campylotropous; crassinucellate.

Fruit fleshy (usually), or non-fleshy; indehiscent (usually), or dehiscent; a berry (usually), or a capsule (e.g. Milligania). Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Cotyledons 1. Embryo straight. Testa encrusted with phytomelan (seemingly, though not encoded as such by Stevenson and Loconte (1995) for cladistic analyses); hard, shining black.

Seedling. Hypocotyl internode present (short). Seedling collar not conspicuous. Cotyledon hyperphyll elongated to compact; assimilatory to non-assimilatory; more or less circular in t.s. Coleoptile absent. Seedling cataphylls present, or absent. Primary root ephemeral.

Physiology, phytochemistry. Alkaloids absent (?). Saponins/sapogenins present. Proanthocyanidins absent. Flavonols absent. Ellagic acid absent.

Geography, cytology. Paleotropical, Australian, and Antarctic. Widespread in the Southern Hemisphere, absent from southern Africa. X = 8, 19.

Taxonomy. Subclass Monocotyledonae. Dahlgren et al. Superorder Liliiflorae; Burmanniales. APG 3 core angiosperms; Superorder Lilianae; non-commelinid Monocot; Order Asparagales.

Species about 55. Genera 5; Astelia, Collospermum, Cordyline, Milligania, Neoastelia.

General remarks. See Rudall et al. (1998). Cordyline seems to belong in an extended Lomandraceae, but it is currently impracticable to present the requisite recircumscribed family descriptions here (see comments under Lomandraceae).

Illustrations. • Astelia pumila: Hooker, Fl. Antarctica (1844). • Cordyline stricta): Hooker, Fl. Novae-Zelandiae (1853). • Cordyline australis, habit: photo. • Astelia: fruit and seed details.


This description is offered for casual browsing only. We strongly advise against extracting comparative information from it. This is much more easily achieved using the interactive key, which allows access to the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, distributions of character states within any set of taxa, geographical distribution, genera included in each family, and classifications (Dahlgren; Dahlgren, Clifford, and Yeo; Cronquist; APG).

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 19th August 2014. http://delta-intkey.com’.

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