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principal families of the mediterranean wild flowers

CARYOPHYLLACEAE (PINK FAMILY): Herbs with opposite leaves, rarely alternate, each pair at right angles to those above and below; occasionally with membranous stipules. Flowers regular, generally hermaphrodite; sepals 4-5, free or fused together; petals 4-5, free, clawed or not, sometimes absent; stamens often 8-10, sometimes fewer; stigmas 2-5. Fruit a capsule, splitting with as many twice as many teeth as styles. A large family, primarily from temperature regions of the world.

RANUNCULACEAE (BUTTERCUP FAMILY): A large, mainly temperate, family of herbaceous plants - except Clematis, which is woody. Leaves usually alternate (opposite in Clematis), often divided (dissected). Flowers often large and showy with 5, sometimes more, sepals or petals or both; nectaries or nectariferous 'petals' often present; stamens numerous. Fruit a collection of achenes or follicles. Many of the species contain alkaloids and can be extremely poisonous both to humans and animals.

PAPAVERACEAE (POPPY FAMILY): Annuals or perennials, often with milky or colored (yellowish) juice when cut. Leaves 1-2-pinnate. Flowers solitary or in lax clusters; sepals 2, deciduous, falling as the flowers open; petals 4, separate, often crumpled-looking. Stamens usually numerous but only 4 in Hypecoum. Fruit a capsule (pod) with pores at the top, or splitting lengthwise into 2-4 valves.

CRUCIFERAE (CRESS FAMILY): Annual or perennial herbs. Leaves usually alternate. Flowers usually in racemes, very distinctive with 4 separate sepals and 4 separate petals, arranged crosswise; stamens 6. Fruit a 2-parted capsule (pod), either long and thin (siliqua) or broad and short, variously shaped (silicula). Fruit shape is very important in identification.

ROSACEAE (ROSE FAMILY): A large and diverse family of trees, shrubs and herbs, with a worldwide distribution. Leaves alternate, simple or compound, often pinnate or palmate; stipules present. Flowers terminal, solitary or in racemes, cymes or panicles, often 5-parted, but generally with numerous stamens and few to many carpels; receptacle generally hollowed, but very variable, often with all the flower organs (except the carpels) attached to the rim. Fruit extremely variable (including the apple, blackberry, quince, hip and haw) from a capsule, to a collection of achenes, a drupe (plum and chery) or a pome (apple and pear).

LEGUMINOSAE (PEA FAMILY): A large family in the mediterranean region and generally very distinctive. Trees or herbs with trifoliate or pinnate leaves; occasionally with spines or tendrils. Flowers 5-petalled, most pea-shaped; upper petal (standard) often broad and erect, overlapping the lateral two (wings) which lie on each side of the lower two united petals (keel), which conceal the 10 stamens and style; sepals tube with 5 short or long teeth. Fruit a pod, very variable, often splitting lengthwise into two when ripe, sometimes coiled or splitting into short segments.

EUPHORBIACEAE (SPURGE FAMILY): A very large family distributed throughout the world and containing herbs, shrubs, trees, lianas. there are in excess of 7000 species, 1600 in Euphorbia alone.

EUPHORBIA (SPURGES): Annual or perennial herbs or shrubs with milky latex when cut. Flowers in umbrel-like clusters, each stalk (ray) of the umbel bearing bracts (often yellowish), with one or several flower-clusters. Male and female flowers separate, but in discrete groups (cyathia), with several male and a solitary female set in a cup-shaped involucre, with glistening, kidney-shaped glands, the male flowers with a single stamen, the female with an ovary and 3 styles. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule.

MALVACEAE (MALLOW FAMILY): Herbs or shrubs, often with stellate (star-shapped) hairs; stipules present. Leaves alternate, usually palmately-lobed. Flowers regular, hermaphrodite; sepals and petals 5, separate; epicalyx often present; stamens many, fused together into a column surrounding the 5-lobed style. Fruit with a ring of closely packed nutlets (mericarps) or a capsule.

UMBELLIFERAE (CARROT FAMILY): A large family of annual, biennial or perennial herbs, occasionally shrubs, with alternate leaves. Leaves often large and 2-4 pinnately divided, sometimes simple, often with inflated, sheathing bases. Flowers borne in distinctive umbels, generally compound, the primary umbel with or without bracts, its main branches (rays) supporting secondary umbels with or without secondary bracts (bracteoles). Flowers often rather small, 5-parted and usually hermaphrodite; calyx with 5 teeth, usually inconspicuous, sometimes absent; petals separate, often notched and with an incurved tip, all the same size or markedly uneven so that the outer flowers in an umbel may have its outer petals considerably enlarged (radiate). Carpels 2, joined along a central axis, each terminating in a style, flattened or rounded in section, often ribbed or winged and with resin canals (vittae) between the primary ridges, Fruit two-parted, each pressed close together, parting when mature; flowers and fruit can often be found on the plant at the same time.

BORAGINACEAE (BORAGE FAMILY): Herbs or small shrubs, often with bristly stems and leaves, the bristles often with swollen bases. Leaves simple and alternate. Flowers in spiralled clusters (scorpioid cymes) , short-stalked, 5-parted; corolla funnel-shaped or constricted at the mouth; stamens 5, joined to the corolla. Fruit consisting of 4, occasionally fewer, nutlets, often ornamented and hidden within the persistent calyx.

LABIATAE (MINT FAMILY): Herbs or shrubs, often aromatic from numerous glands; stems square. Leaves opposite, usually simple. Flowers irregular (zygomorphic), in distinct lateral clusters (verticillasters) which often form whorls around the stem; calyx with 5 teeth, sometimes 2-lipped; corolla 2-lipped, except in Ajuga and Teucrium, the lower lip 3-lobed and the upper 2. Stamens 4 (2 in Salvia). Fruit consisting of 4 nutlets hidden at the base of the persistent calyx.

SCROPHULARIACEAE (FIGWORT FAMILY): Herbs, rarely shrubs or trees. Leaves opposite or alternate. Stem square or round. Flowers irregular (zygomorphic), in spikes or racemes, sometimes solitary; bracts usually present; calyx 4-5 lobed (petals fused near the base or into a distinct tube), occasionally 2-lipped; corolla 5-lobed, or clearly 2-lipped; stamens 2, 4 or 5. Fruit a capsule, generally 2-parted.

CAMPANULACEAE (BELLFLOWER FAMILY): Annual or perennial herbs, usually with white latex when cut. Leaves generally alternate. Flowers often large and showy, borne in heads, racemes or panicles, occasionally solitary; calyx with 5 teeth (sepals fused together at the base); corolla frequently bell- or saucer-shaped, shallowly to deeply lobed, with a short or long tube; stamens 5, fused or free; style solitary. Fruit a capsule, dehiscing by slits or pores.

COMPOSITAE (DAISY FAMILY): Herbs or shrubs with alternate, opposite or rosetted leaves. Flower-heads with an involucre of closely overlapping bracts (flower-bracts) around the base, sometimes spine-tipped. Flowers (florets) small, , borne in congested heads (capitula), often with receptacle scales at the base of each floret. Florets variable, all the same in the flowerhead or those in the center (the disk) different from the outer (rays), giving the typical daisy flowerhead; three main types occur - tubular and 4-5-toothed, tubular and 2-lipped, and ligulate with a one-sided, strap-like appendage (ray). Stamens 5, fused together around the style. Ovary inferior. Fruit a single-seeded achene, often with a feathery or a hairy appendage (pappus) attached at one end.

LILIACEAE (LILY FAMILY): A large family of perennial herbs, often with bulbous, tuberous or rhizomatous stock. Leaves often linear or lanceolate, untoothed and with parallel veins, occasionally heart-shaped. Perianth generally 6-parted, often all similar and petal-like (tepals), separate or fused; stamens usually 6; style 1, occasionally 3. Fruit a 3-parted capsule or a berry.( The family has recently been divided into more than twenty distinct families; this has not been followed here so as to allow for consistency with standard floras and reference-books on the area before 1988.)

AMARYLLIDACEAE (DAFFODIL FAMILY): A family of bulbous perennials with scapes (leafless stems). Leaves basal, linear to strap-shaped, generally rather fleshy, with parallel veins, untoothed, often only partly developed at flowering time.. Flowers solitary or clustered in an umbel. subtended by one or several 'bract-like' spathes which cover and protect the flowers in bud; tepals 6, usually all petal-like, arising, like the other flower parts, from the top of the ovary, which is inferior; stamens 6. Fruit a 3-parted capsule.

IRIDACEAE (IRIS FAMILY): A family of bulbous, tuberous or rhizomatous perennials, often with narrow, linear or sword-shaped leaves, all basal or alternate with parallel veins, untoothed. Flowers 3 parted, generally enclosed in one or two spathes in bud; tepals 6, often petal-like, all similar (as in Crocus) or three different (as in Iris); stamens 3; styles 3 or 3-lobed, or variously divided. Ovary inferior. Fruit a 3-parted capsule.

ORCHIDACEAE (ORCHID FAMILY): A very large family found in many parts of the world. Many of the tropical species are epiphytic, growing on the trunks and branches of trees. Med species are all terrestial and the following description applies to them. Tuberous or rhizomatous perennials with alternate (spirally arranged) leaves, often aggregated towards the base of the plant into a loose rosette; the upper leaves may be similar to the lower or sheath- or bract-like; some species may be saprophytic with scale-like leaves without green pigment (chlorophyll). Flowers solitary or in a spike or raceme, sometimes congested into a distinct head, which often elongates in fruit; sepals 3, green or colored, often similar to the petals, sometimes larger; petals 3, the lower one modified into a distinctive lip or labellum, often lobed or ridged, sometimes extended behind into a nectar-containing spur; stamens generally 2, fused to the stigma into a column, the pollen aggregated into detachable masses or pollinia; ovary inferior, located behind all the other flower parts, stalked or not. Fruit a 3-parted capsule containing many minute seeds. In most orchids the flower twist through 180o at a very early stage so that the flower as seen with the lip at trhe bottom is actually upside down (resupination).

WEBSITE  EDITOR : Krešimir J. Adamić

SOURCE: Wild flowers of the Mediterranean by M. Blamey and C. Grey-Wilson (London, 2004).