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Araliaceae Juss.

Gen.Pl. [Jussieu] 217 (1789)
Name Status

Scientific Description

Common name. Ginseng Family.

Habit and leaf form. Trees, or shrubs, or lianas, or herbs (rarely); bearing essential oils, or without essential oils; resinous. Perennial; plants with neither basal nor terminal concentrations of leaves. Self supporting, or epiphytic, or climbing; when climbing stem twiners, or root climbers. Often pachycaul. Heterophyllous (sometimes, e.g. Hedera helix, where progression from lobed to entire leaves reflects irreversible shoot maturation), or not heterophyllous. Leaves nearly always alternate (opposite only in Cheirodendron); spiral, or distichous (rarely), or four-ranked (rarely); commonly leathery; petiolate (usually), or subsessile; more or less sheathing (usually), or non-sheathing. Leaf sheaths with free margins. Leaves gland-dotted, or not gland-dotted; aromatic, or without marked odour; simple, or compound; peltate (sometimes), or not peltate; when compound, ternate, or pinnate, or palmate. Leaf blades when simple, dissected (usually), or entire; pinnatifid, or palmately lobed; pinnately veined, or palmately veined. Leaves with stipules, or without stipules. Stipules when present, intrapetiolar (often adnate to and scarcely distinguishable from the base of the petiole). Vegetative buds scaly. Leaves without a persistent basal meristem; becoming compound from primordial lobes. Leaf anatomy. Complex hairs usually present. Complex hairs commonly stellate. Stem anatomy. Nodes multilacunar (often), or penta-lacunar, or tri-lacunar (rarely). Secondary thickening developing from a conventional cambial ring.

Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite, or functionally male and functionally female, or hermaphrodite and functionally male, or hermaphrodite and functionally female, or functionally female, or hermaphrodite, functionally male, and functionally female. Unisexual flowers present, or absent. Plants hermaphrodite, or monoecious, or andromonoecious, or gynomonoecious, or dioecious, or polygamomonoecious.

Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’ (terminal or lateral); in spikes, in heads, and in umbels. Inflorescences terminal, or axillary, or epiphyllous (rarely); umbels or heads, often massed into compound inflorescences. Flowers operculate (calyptrate) (rarely), or not operculate; usually more or less 5 merous. Perianth with distinct calyx and corolla, or petaline; (6–)10(–24); 1 -whorled, or 2 -whorled; isomerous, or anisomerous. Calyx present, or vestigial, or absent; when present, 3–5(–12) (sometimes reduced to small teeth); 1 -whorled; when present, polysepalous, or gamosepalous (usually represented by a narrow seam); entire, or lobed; when lobed, blunt-lobed, or toothed; often open in bud. Corolla (3–)5(–12); 1 -whorled; polypetalous, or gamopetalous (rarely connate at the base or forming a calyptra); calyptrate (rarely), or not calyptrate; imbricate, or valvate; regular. Fertile stamens present (usually), or absent (when flower female). Androecium (3–)5(–12), or 10–100 (the same number as the corolla members, twice the number, or ‘many’). Androecial members free of the perianth; free of one another. Stamens (3–)5(–12), or 10–100; isomerous with the perianth, or diplostemonous, or polystemonous. Anthers dehiscing via longitudinal slits; tetrasporangiate. Fertile gynoecium present (usually), or absent (when flower male). Gynoecium 2–5(–100) carpelled (i.e., sometimes ‘many’). The pistil 1–200 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious; inferior, or superior (rarely). Ovary unilocular to plurilocular; 1–200 locular. Epigynous disk present. Styles free, or partially joined. Stigmas wet type, or dry type; papillate; Group II type and Group III type. Placentation apical. Ovules 1(–2) per locule; pendulous; epitropous; anatropous.

Fruit and seed features. Fruit fleshy, or non-fleshy; indehiscent, or a schizocarp. Mericarps when fruit schizocarpic, 2 (dry, one seeded). Fruit (when non-schizocarpic) a berry, or a drupe (with as many pyrenes as locules). Gynoecia of adjoining flowers combining to form a multiple fruit, or not forming a multiple fruit. Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Cotyledons 2. Embryo achlorophyllous (2/3). Seedling. Germination phanerocotylar.

Physiology, biochemistry. Aluminium accumulation not found. Photosynthetic pathway: C3.

Geography, cytology, number of species. World distribution: widespread, but especially Indomalaya and tropical America. X = 11, 12(+). 700 species.

Economic uses, etc. Some cultivated ornamentals, including notable houseplants, e.g. Hedera, Aralia, Polyscias, Schefflera, Fatsia. Ginseng roots from Panax quinquefolius, Chinese rice paper from the pith of Tetrapanax papyriferus.