Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1/Caryophyllaceae

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Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1 (1840)
by Robert Wight
3828188Illustrations of Indian Botany, Vol. 1 — Caryophyllaceae1840Robert Wight


Since the publication of DeCandolle's Prodromus, in which this rather complex order occupies a large space, considerable changes have been made on it by different writers. These principally consist in raising his sub-orders to the rank of distinct orders, the removal of Elatineae, and referring some of the genera included by him to other allied, though in the linear series remotely situated, orders. This being for the most part an extra tropical order, these changes so far as they affect the few Indian genera can be easily pointed out without the necessity of changing the name of the order adopted, after DeCandolle, in our Prodromus. Following Dr. Lindley's arrangement, it being the most recent and perhaps the best, the Peninsular genera ranked under Caryophyllaceae by us are thus distributed. Gypsophila and Silene are referred to Silenaceae; Stellaria, Cerastium, and Arenaria, to Alsinaceae : and Mollugo to Illecebrece the Paronychiacece of our Prodromus. These three orders, along with PortulacecB and Tamariscinece are combined into one " Alliance" Silenales. distinguished by having the "Embryo rolled round mealy albumen; or if this is not the case, herbaceous plants with the joints of the stem tumid, or with scales replacing the leaves upon rod-like branches; almost all herbaceous, or small shrubs." The clause " with scales replacing the leaves" of this character refers to Tamariscineae. The orders are thus summarily distinguished—Portulaceae has two sepals : Silenaceae four or five united into a tube : Alsinaceae four or five distinct : Tamariscineae the dehiscence of the fruit loculicidal, seed hairy : and Illecebreae have leaves with stipules. In this last the dehiscence is also loculicidal. Silenaceae and Alsinaceae are represented in the accompanying plate, and Portulaceae and Illecebreae will be in a subsequent number.

The Caryophyllaceae, are distinguished by having a calyx of 4-5 sepals either united or free. Petals four or five, sometimes unguiculate, sometimes wanting. Stamens equal to, or double the number of petals ; when equal alternate with them. A single ovary of 2-5 united carpels either sessile or stipatate, with 2-5 filiform stigmas. Capsule 2-5 valved, one-celled or imperfectly 2-5 celled, the valves usually partially splitting at the apex, forming twice as many



teeth as there are valves or stigmas; placentas in the axis. Seeds indefinite, albumen mealy, with the embryo curved round it.

This character includes Silenaceae and Alsinaceae, but excludes Mollugo, which has a 3-5 celled capsule, with distinctly loculicidal dehiscence, which, for these reasons, I think more justly referable to Paronychiaceae.

Affinities. These are very various. The curved embryo rolled round a mass of farinacious albumen, intimately connects them with a whole series of orders, all presenting the same peculiarities, hut separated in the present artificial disposition of the natural orders, by the structure of the flowers, some having hypogynous, some perigynous stamens, and several being apetalous.

Geographical Distribution. After excluding Mollugo this maybe considered a strictly extra tropical order, not more than three or four genera, having tropical representatives, and these for the most part confined to the highest hills, or if met with on the plains, only during the cool season. In the temperate zones they are very abundant, and remarkable for presenting in the Pinks and Sweet Williams some of the most beautiful ornaments of the flower garden, and in the Chick weeds its most insignificant weeds.

Properties and Uses. Generally the Caryophillaceae may be characterized as uniformly insipid. The petals of the clove jelly flower are employed in medicine, but more on account of their fragrance and the fine colour they impart to infusions, syrups, &c. than for any valuable medicinal properties they possess.


1st.—1. Cerastium Indicum. Natural size. 2. A flower, sepals and petals drawn back to show the stamens, ovary, and styles. Petals cleft at the apex. 3. Stamens back and front view. 4. Styles and stigmas. 5. Capsule cut vertically, showing the contained seeds, and lobed dehiscence of the apex. 6, A seed. A 11 more or less magnified. 2d.—1. Silene intrusa. Natural size. 2. A flower opened showing the tubular calyx, and unguiculate lobed petals, 10 stamens, and stipitate ovary. 3. Anther back and front views. 4. Ovary cut vertically.