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Family: Phytolaccaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Caryophyllales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • POKEWEED FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Herbs with alternate, simple, entire leaves and usually drooping, terminal or axillary racemes of small flowers that are white to greenish or variously colored with some reddish pigmentation; fruit a brightly colored berry; foliage usually rather succulent, often strongly reddish- or purplish-tinted and/or with a bloom.

Diagnosis: Ours annual or perennial herbs, sometimes with woody base; leaves alternate, simple, entire; flowers in axillary or terminal, peduncled, leafless racemes; calyces rotate, small, white to greenish, pink, rose, or reddish purple; petals absent; fruit in ours a berry.


Notes: A small (65 species in 18 genera) mainly tropical and warm area family, especially of the Americas; usually herbs but also shrubs, trees, or woody climbers. Like most Caryophyllidae, they produce betalain pigments rather than anthocyanins (Cronquist & Thorne 1994). Some are used medicinally, as sources of dye, or as potherbs. Molecular evidence (Downie & Palmer 1994) indicated the family is polyphyletic and that Phytolacca and Rivina are related to Nyctaginaceae. (subclass Caryophyllidae).