Caryophyllaceae image
Dan Tenaglia  

Key to Wisconsin Caryophyllaceae

Author: John G. Zaborsky

    • 1a.Stipules present and readily apparent, scarious, sometimes fused between the leaf bases 2

    • 1b.Stipules absent (though leaf bases may sometimes be connate) 5

    • 2a.Leaves elliptic to narrowly obovate, thin, not succulent; petals absent; styles and stigmas 2; fruit 1-seeded, indehiscent 3

    • 2b.Leaves linear-filiform, slightly succulent; petals present; styles and stigmas 3 or 5; fruit a many-seeded capsule 4

    • 3a.Plant erect, with flowers on slender terminal branches; leaves sparsely to densely red-dotted beneath; stipules not ciliate; sepals mucronate, hooded Paronychia

    • 3b.Plant prostrate, matted, with flowers crowded in axillary clusters; leaves not red-dotted; stipules ciliate; sepals not mucronate or hooded Herniaria

    • 4a.Leaves in 2 principal clusters at each node, appearing whorled; petals white; styles and capsule valves 5 Spergula

    • 4b.Leaves clearly opposite, but axillary clusters usually present; petals usually pink; styles and capsule valves 3 Spergularia

    • 5a.Petals absent 6

    • 5b.Petals present 9

    • 6a.Sepals fused to form a hard perigynous cup around the ovary and fruit; fruit a utricle Scleranthus

    • 6b.Sepals fused, but not forming a hardened cup, or unfused; fruit a capsule 7

    • 7a.Sepals fused into a distinct tube; stems with glutinous zones Silene

    • 7b.Sepals unfused; stems glabrous or pubescent but never glutinous 8

    • 8a.Flowers 4 (–5)-merous; leaves linear, not over 1 mm wide; axillary clusters of leaves often present Sagina

    • 8b.Flowers 5-merous; leaves ovate to elliptic or linear-lanceolate to lanceolate, well over 1 mm wide; axillary clusters of leaves absent Stellaria

    • 9a.Sepals distinct (only basally connate in some genera); petals white 10

    • 9b.Sepals fused at least ¼ of their length; petals pink, red, or white 17

    • 10a.Petals clearly notched or deeply cleft at the apex 17

    • 10b.Petals entire or erose at the apex, without an obvious deep notch 13

    • 11b.Styles 5 12

    • 12a.Leaves variously shaped but less than 1 cm wide; capsule cylindric Cerastium

    • 12b.Leaves ovate, more than 1.5 cm wide; capsule ovoid Stellaria

    • 13a.Inflorescence cymose; petals entire; plants glabrous or pubescent but never glaucous or glandular Holosteum

    • 13b.Calyces without hooked hairs 14

    • 14a.Stems glabrous; leaves connate with evident scarious connective tissue; axillary clusters of leaves often present 15

    • 14b.Stems pubescent; leaves not clearly connate (if connate then without scarious connective tissue); axillary clusters of leaves absent 16

    • 15a.Flowers 5-merous; styles and capsule teeth 3 Sabulina

    • 15b.Flowers 4 (–5)-merous; styles and capsule teeth 4 (–5) Sagina

    • 16a.Leaves ovate-elliptic, acute to acuminate, not over 7 (–9) mm long; petals shorter than the sepals; seeds lacking an appendage; annuals Arenaria

    • 16b.Leaves lanceolate to broadly or narrowly elliptic, mostly over 10 mm long; petals longer than the sepals; seeds with a pale appendage; perennials Moehringia

    • 17a.Sepals fused ca. ¼ to ½ their length, with prominent free tips, 3–5 cm long Agrostemma

    • 17b.Sepals fused ½ their length or more, less than 3 cm long 18

    • 18a.Flowers with an epicalyx 19

    • 18b.Flowers without an epicalyx 20

    • 19a.Sepals each with (3–) 5–7 usually strong ribs, connate without membranous margins Dianthus

    • 19b.Sepals each with 1 (–3) main rib(s), connate by membranous ribless margins Petrorhagia

    • 20a.Styles 3 or more, or flowers staminate 21

    • 20b.Styles 2, flowers bisexual 22

    • 21a.Calyx tubular or broadened below the middle Silene

    • 21b.Calyx clavate, expanded above the middle Atocion

    • 22a.Calyx less than 5 mm long 23

    • 22b.Calyx at least 7 mm long 24

    • 23a.Leaves linear, 0.2–2 (–3) mm wide; petals pink; annuals Psammophiliella

    • 23b.Leaves lanceolate to ovate or ovate-lanceolate, (–1) 2–20 (–35) mm wide; petals white, pink, or purplish; annuals and perennials Gypsophila

    • 24a.Inflorescences crowded; calyx wingless; leaves with 3 (–5) prominent veins; rhizomatous perennials Saponaria

    • 24b.Inflorescences open; calyx with 5 green wings; leaves with 1 prominent vein; taprooted annuals Gypsophila

Recent phylogenetic studies have greatly improved our understanding of generic concepts in this family. This has resulted in the splitting of numerous genera, including Arenaria and Silene. While this is a familiar family used in the horticultural and cut flower trades, there are also many weedy taxa, mostly introduced from Eurasia. Of the 20 genera found in Wisconsin, 14 are entirely nonnative: Agrostemma, Arenaria, Atocion, Dianthus, Gypsophila, Herniaria, Holosteum, Petrorhagia, Psammophiliella, Sagina, Saponaria, Scleranthus, Spergula, and Spergularia. Most of our native species are rather local in their distributions.