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Family: Caryophyllaceae

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

Common Names:

  • PINK - English, United States of America
  • CARNATION FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Herbs with opposite, simple, entire leaves, swollen nodes, and separate, often notched petals frequently with claw and blade; fruit often a toothed or valved capsule.

Diagnosis: Ours annual, biennial, or perennial herbs; stems often with swollen nodes; leaves opposite, simple, entire; stipules scarious or absent; flowers solitary or inflorescences cymose, paniclelike, or capitate; sepals or tepals (4-)5; petals 0-5 (or more in cultivated forms), often notched ("pinked") at apex, frequently differentiated into claw and blade, sometimes with a crown of appendages (projections or scales) at junction of claw and blade; stamens (1-)5-10; pistil 1; ovary superior; placentation usually free-central or basal; fruit a capsule dehiscing apically by valves or teeth or an utricle.


Notes: A large (ca. 2,200 species in ca. 86 genera-Bittrich 1993), cosmopolitan, but especially temperate and warm n hemisphere family of mostly herbs or rarely shrubs or small trees. It includes ornamentals such as Dianthus (CARNATION, SWEET-WILLIAM) and Gypsophila (BABY'S-BREATH). The family is unusual in its subclass in having anthocyanin rather than betalain pigments (Cronquist & Thorne 1994); however, molecular analyses link it with other members of the Caryophyllales (Giannasi et al. 1992; Downie & Palmer 1994). The common name PINK is an old name probably referring to the notched or “pinked” petals (as in pinking shears). Family name conserved from Caryophyllus Mill., a genus now treated as Dianthus (the name Dianthus was published earlier and thus has priority in terms of nomenclature). In pre-Linnaean times, some authorities (e.g., Tournefort) referred to all PINKS as belonging to the genus Caryophyllus; Linnaeus, however, used the name for Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & L.M. Perry, CLOVES or CLOVE TREE, of the Myrtaceae; Caryophyllus L. has been rejected in favor of Syzygium (Farr et al. 1979). Linnaeus did use “caryophyllus” as an epithet for one of the familiar carnations also known as the CLOVE PINK (Bailey 1938). (Greek: caryon, nut, and phyllon, leaf, possibly in reference to the capsular or utricular fruit being subtended by bracts-R. Rabeler, pers. comm.) (subclass Caryophyllidae)