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Tropaeolaceae DC.
Prodr. 1:683 (1824)

Name Status: Current
Browse to the list of specimens for Tropaeolaceae DC.
Photo of Tropaeolaceae DC.

Scientific Description
Leslie Watson, Friday 3 October 2008

Common name. Nasturtium Family.

Habit and leaf form. Herbs (or trailing), or herbaceous climbers (with mustard oils and watery juice); not resinous. Plants somewhat succulent, or non-succulent. Annual to perennial; plants with neither basal nor terminal concentrations of leaves; when perennial, tuberous. Prostrate or climbing; often petiole twiners. Leaves alternate, or alternate and opposite (sometimes opposite below); petiolate (the petioles often long and twining); non-sheathing; gland-dotted, or not gland-dotted; simple, or compound; peltate; when compound, palmate. Leaf blades when simple entire, or dissected; flat; when simple/dissected, palmately lobed; palmately veined; cross-venulate. Leaves with stipules, or without stipules; without a persistent basal meristem. Stem anatomy. Nodes tri-lacunar. Secondary thickening absent, or developing from a conventional cambial ring.

Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Unisexual flowers absent. Plants hermaphrodite. Entomophilous. Pollination mechanism conspicuously specialized (in T. majus, the the anthers move sequentially to the nectariferous spur to shed their pollen before returning to their original positions, when the style moves to the spur. The hairs on the lower margins of the anterior petals exclude the entry of insects too small to effect pollination).

Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers solitary (axillary); medium-sized (showy); very irregular (usually), or somewhat irregular (Tropaeastrum); zygomorphic. The floral asymmetry involving the perianth and involving the androecium. Flowers cyclic; pentacyclic. Free hypanthium present (the corolla slightly perigynous). Perianth with distinct calyx and corolla (but the calyx petaloid); 7–10; 2 -whorled; isomerous, or anisomerous (the corolla sometimes incomplete). Calyx 5 (the sepals petaloid); 1 -whorled; gamosepalous; 5 blunt-lobed; imbricate, or valvate; bilabiate; long to short spurred (from below the dorsal (adaxial) sepal(s)); with the median member posterior. Corolla 2–5 (the two upper members exterior and often differing from the lower, which are sometimes missing); 1 -whorled; polypetalous; imbricate. Petals clawed. Corolla members variously lobed or fringed. Androecium 8. Androecial members free of the perianth; markedly unequal (declinate); free of one another; 2 -whorled (four per whorl, the median of each supposedly suppressed). Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 8; filantherous (the filaments filiform). Anthers basifixed; dehiscing via longitudinal slits; latrorse; tetrasporangiate. Gynoecium 3 carpelled. The pistil 3 celled. Carpels reduced in number relative to the perianth to increased in number relative to the perianth. Gynoecium syncarpous; synstylovarious to eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary plurilocular; 3 locular. Gynoecium oblique; stylate. Styles 1; apical. Stigmas 1, or 3; 3 - lobed; dry type; non-papillate. Placentation axile to apical. Ovules 1 per locule; pendulous; epitropous; non-arillate; anatropous.

Fruit and seed features. Fruit fleshy (sometimes), or non-fleshy; a schizocarp. Mericarps comprising nutlets, or comprising drupelets, or samaroid (Magallana, where only one mericarp matures). Dispersal unit the mericarp. Seeds non-endospermic; with amyloid. Embryo well differentiated. Cotyledons 2 (thick). Embryo chlorophyllous (Tropaeolum majus); straight. Seedling. Germination cryptocotylar.

Physiology, biochemistry. Mustard-oils present. Photosynthetic pathway: C3.

Geography, cytology, number of species. Neotropical. World distribution: Mexico to temperate South America, widely introduced elsewhere. X = 12–14. 92 species.