Calyceraceae Plant Family

About the Calyceraceae or Calycera Family

Calyceraceae is a family of flowering plants that includes around 83 species in six genera. Most members of the family are found in South America, with a few species occurring in New Zealand. The family is known for its composite flower heads, which are composed of both ray and disk flowers. Despite its relatively small size, Calyceraceae is an important component of many ecosystems where it occurs.

Taxonomy and Classification

Calyceraceae is a family of flowering plants that belongs to the order Asterales. The family includes six genera, namely Acicarpha, Calycera, Gamochaeta, Haplocarpha, Moscharia, and Nastanthus. Within the order, Calyceraceae is part of the Campanulid clade, which also includes families such as Asteraceae and Campanulaceae. There are no subfamilies within Calyceraceae. The family is closely related to several other plant families, including Goodeniaceae, Stylidiaceae, and Menyanthaceae.

Morphology and Characteristics

Plants in the family Calyceraceae are generally small to medium- herbs or subshrubs. They are characterized by their composite flower heads, which are composed of ray and disk flowers. The heads can be solitary or arranged in corymbs or panicles. The leaves are alternate or basal, simple or lobed, and vary in shape from linear to ovate. The flowers of Calyceraceae are usually radially symmetrical and have both male and female parts. They are typically pollinated by insects, especially bees and flies. Many species in the family have small and inconspicuous flowers that are adapted to wind pollination.

Distribution and Habitat

Calyceraceae has a mostly southern hemisphere distribution, with most species occurring in South America and a few species in New Zealand. In South America, the family is found mainly in the Andean region, from Colombia to Chile and Argentina. The greatest diversity of Calyceraceae is found in the Patagonian and Fuegian regions of southern Argentina and Chile. Some species occur in lowland areas and grasslands, while others are adapted to high- habitats. In New Zealand, the family is represented by a single genus (Aciphylla) that includes around 30 species. These plants are known as speargrasses and occupy open alpine and subalpine habitats.

Economic and Ecological Importance

Members of Calyceraceae have several economic and ecological importance. Some species are used in traditional medicine for their anti- analgesic, and diuretic properties. The leaves of some species are also used as a poultice to treat wounds and burns. Several species of the family are cultivated as ornamental plants due to their attractive flowers and foliage. In addition, certain species have cultural significance and are used in traditional celebrations or as decorative elements. Ecologically, Calyceraceae is an important component of many ecosystems where it occurs. They contribute to biodiversity by providing habitat and food sources for many pollinators, such as bees and flies. Some species of Calyceraceae are also important indicators of environmental health and are used in conservation efforts.

Notable Species

Some notable species from the family Calyceraceae include:

  • Acicarpha tribuloides: also known as "goat' thorn", this plant is native to Chile and Argentina. It has small, yellow flowers and distinctive spiny fruits that attach to passing animals for dispersal. The plant is used in traditional medicine for its diuretic and anti- properties.

  • Calycera crassifolia: a species of subshrub that is endemic to the Falkland Islands. It has large, showy flowers that are white or purple- in color. The plant is cultivated as an ornamental and is sometimes used in traditional celebrations.

  • Gamochaeta antillana: a species of herbaceous plant that is native to the Caribbean. It has small, white flowers and is adapted to growing in arid environments. The plant is used in traditional medicine for treating skin conditions such as rashes and hives.

  • Haplocarpha rueppellii: a species of herbaceous plant that is native to southern Africa. It has small, yellow flowers and is adapted to growing in rocky and sandy soils. The plant is used in traditional medicine for its analgesic and anti- properties.

  • Moscharia pinnatifida: a species of herbaceous plant that is native to South America. It has small, pink or purple flowers and is adapted to growing in high- habitats. The plant is used in traditional medicine for treating respiratory ailments such as coughs and asthma.

These species are just a few examples of the diverse range of plants within the family Calyceraceae.