The families of flowering plants

L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz

Convallariaceae Horan.

~ Former Liliaceae-Convallarieae.

Including Aspidistreae (Aspidistraceae J.G. Agardh, Ophiopogonaceae Endlicher, Phlebaceae Dulac (p.p.), Platymetreae (Platymetraceae) Salisb., Polygonataceae Salisb.

Habit and leaf form. Herbs. Leaves well developed. Perennial; with a basal aggregation of leaves, or without conspicuous aggregations of leaves. Young stems not breaking easily at the nodes. Rhizomatous, or tuberous. Mesophytic. Leaves alternate; spiral, or distichous; ‘herbaceous’, or leathery; petiolate to sessile; sheathing. Leaf sheaths with free margins. Leaves simple. Lamina entire; lanceolate, or oblong, or ovate (etc.); palmately veined, or parallel-veined, or pinnately veined (convergent-pinnate); without cross-venules; cordate, or attenuate at the base, or cuneate at the base, or oblique at the base. Leaves exstipulate. Lamina margins entire; flat.

Leaf anatomy. Stomata present; anomocytic. Guard-cells not ‘grass type’. The mesophyll containing mucilage cells (with raphides); containing crystals. The crystals raphides. Foliar vessels absent.

Axial (stem, wood) anatomy. Secondary thickening absent. The axial xylem with vessels, or without vessels (usually).

The vessel end-walls scalariform.

Root anatomy. Roots with velamen (commonly, in Aspidistra, Polygonatum etc.), or without velamen. Root xylem with vessels; vessel end-walls scalariform, or reticulately perforated and scalariform.

Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Plants hermaphrodite. Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the gynoecium (via septal nectaries). Pollination entomophilous, or by unusual means (supposedly by slugs — ‘malacophilous’ — in Aspidistra).

Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers solitary, or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’ (usually); when solitary, axillary. The ultimate inflorescence units when aggregated, cymose (?). Inflorescences scapiflorous, or not scapiflorous; terminal, or axillary; various; espatheate. Flowers small to medium-sized; regular; 3(–4) merous; cyclic; pentacyclic. Perigone tube present (usually, campanulate or urceolate), or absent (Liriope). Hypogynous disk absent.

Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6 (usually), or 8; free, or joined; 2 whorled; isomerous; petaloid; similar in the two whorls; green, or white, or green and white, or pink to purple (rarely, and rarely other colours). Tepal apex trichomes (TAT) present (Convallaria, Polygonatum).

Androecium 6 (usually), or 8 (rarely), or 4 (rarely). Androecial members free of the perianth to adnate (often inserted high in the tube); all equal, or markedly unequal; free of one another, or coherent; when coherent, 1 adelphous (Peliosanthes); 2 whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 4, or 6 (usually), or 8; reduced in number relative to the adjacent perianth, or isomerous with the perianth (usually), or diplostemonous. Anthers basifixed (usually), or dorsifixed (Reinbeckea); dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate. Microsporogenesis successive. Pollen shed as single grains. Pollen grains aperturate, or nonaperturate (Aspidistra); when aperturate, 1 aperturate; sulcate; 2-celled, or 3-celled.

Gynoecium 3 carpelled (always?), or 4 carpelled (rarely?). Carpels isomerous with the perianth (usually?). The pistil 3 celled, or 4 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; eu-syncarpous; superior to inferior. Ovary 3 locular, or 4 locular (?). Gynoecium non-stylate to stylate. Styles 1; apical. Stylar canal present. Stigmas 1; capitate (or lobate); dry type; papillate. Placentation basal, or axile, or apical. Ovules 2–4 per locule; anatropous to campylotropous, or orthotropous (almost); crassinucellate (mostly), or pseudocrassinucellate. Embryo-sac development Allium-type (usually), or Scilla-type, or Drusa-type. Polar nuclei fusing prior to fertilization. Antipodal cells formed; 3; not proliferating; ephemeral. Endosperm formation nuclear.

Fruit fleshy (usually), or non-fleshy; indehiscent (usually), or dehiscent; a capsule (Liriope, Ophiopogon), or a berry. Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Seeds wingless. Embryo well differentiated. Cotyledons 1. Embryo achlorophyllous (4/5). Testa without phytomelan; pallid, brown, or sometimes bright blue.

Seedling. Hypocotyl internode present (short). Mesocotyl absent. Seedling collar not conspicuous. Cotyledon hyperphyll compact; non-assimilatory. Coleoptile present (Ophiopogoneae), or absent. Seedling cataphylls present (mostly), or absent (Ophiopogoneae). First leaf dorsiventral. Primary root persistent (commonly), or ephemeral (Ophiopogoneae).

Physiology, phytochemistry. Not cyanogenic. Alkaloids absent (?). Saponins/sapogenins present (steroidal, in abundance). Proanthocyanidins absent. Flavonols present, or absent (e.g. Aspidistra); kaempferol and quercetin. Ellagic acid absent.

Geography, cytology. Holarctic, Paleotropical, and Neotropical. Mainly northern hemisphere.

Taxonomy. Subclass Monocotyledonae. Dahlgren et al. Superorder Liliiflorae; Asparagales. APG 3 core angiosperms; Superorder Lilianae; non-commelinid Monocot; Order Asparagales (as Asparagaceae-Nolinoideae).

Species about 65. Genera about 11; Aspidistra, Convallaria, Heteropolygonatum, Liriope, Lourya, Maianthemum, Ophiopogon, Peliosanthes, Polygonatum, Reineckea, Rhodea(?), Smilacina, Theropogon, Tupistra.


And stooping Lilies of the Valley,
That love with shades and dews to dally,
And bending droop on slender threads
With broad hood-leaves above their heads
Like white robed maids in summer hours,
Beneath umbrellas shunning showers.
(John Clare, quoted by Ann Pratt, ‘Wild Flowers’ (1857) - Convallaria majalis)

Illustrations. • Technical details: Ophiopogon, Peliosanthes, Rhodea. • Technical details: Convallaria, Polygonatum. • Aspidistra elatior (“lurida”): Bot. Reg. 628, 1822. • Aspidistra elatior (supposedly ‘malcophilous’ flower): photo. • Convallaria majalis (B. Ent., 1832). • Liriope graminifolia: Bot. Reg. 593, 1821. • Maianthemum flexuosum, as Smilacina: Hook. Ic. Pl. 5 (1842–3). • Maianthemum henryi, as Oligobotrya: Hook. Ic. Pl. 16 (1886). • Polygonatum multiflorum: B. Ent., 1829. • Polygonatum graminifolium: Hook. Ic. Pl. 9 (1852). • Rhodea chinensis, as Tupistra: Hook. Ic. Pl. 19 (1889). • Theropogon pallidus: Bot. Mag. 101 (1875). • Tupistra nutans: Bot. Reg. 1223, 1829.

We advise against extracting comparative information from the descriptions. This is much more easily achieved using the DELTA data files or 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). See also Guidelines for using data taken from Web publications.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 30th September 2017.’.