Let’s find out about about some more of the common plant families. This time we’ll focus on trees.
Maple trees – family Aceraceae
Maples have palmate leaves, which means the main leaf veins radiate out from a single point and they roughly resemble a hand. Most maples are deciduous. The fruit are samaras (maple keys) with two fruit in a cluster.
Leaves of a silver maple.
Some species of maples are known for their brilliant fall colors.
Red maple samara or “keys”
2. Oak or beech trees – family Fagaceae
Oaks are generally large, spreading trees. The fruit is an acorn for oaks and nuts for beeches. The leaves are often longer than they are wide and have lobes along the margins.
3. Ginkgo – family Ginkgoaceae
These unusual trees are gymnosperms. There is only one species in the family. The leaves are fan shaped with a wavy edge. The naked seed is within a fleshy covering that resembles a fruit.
4. Mulberry, fig and osage orange – family Moraceae
Mulberry leaves can be highly variable in shape even within one tree, but most have some sort of lobes. Some have an asymmetrical lobe and resemble a mitten. The leaves of trees in this family have a milky sap. The mulberry fruit are formed in clusters.
These are the leaves of the Texas mulberry.
5. Olive – family Oleaceae
Olives have simple leaves. The fruit is fleshy with a pit inside.
6. Pines, spruces and furs – family Pinaceae
Members of this family are also gymnosperms. The leaves are in the form of needles and most are evergreen. Usually the seeds are borne in cones.
Eastern white pine
White pine cone
7. Willow – family Salicaceae
Willows have narrow, simple leaves. They are deciduous. Fruits form in a capsule with many small, tufted seeds.
In a previous post, we have discussed the Classification of Organisms. Now might be a good time to learn about some of the common plant families.
Learning the characteristics of common plant families can make identification of specific plants easier, plus gives us a sense of how plants are related. Most of us recognize the most common crop plants grown in fields and gardens, so let’s start with those.
Important Note: You would think plant names would be stay the same once they were created, but it turns out that with advances in genetics and efforts to add consistency, many of the names are changing. Keep in mind that all these names could change next week.
The Carrot Family – Apiaceae
This family used to be called the Umbelliferae. They are still characterized by having flat, clustered flowers called “umbels.”
Examples of this family include:
carrots (this is a carrot flower)
and Queen Anne’s lace. Can you see the similarities in these flowers?
2. The Sunflower Family – Asteraceae
This large plant family used to be called the Compositae. What appear to be single flowers are actually a “composite” or collection of tiny disk and/or ray flowers.
Examples of the sunflower family include:
and artichoke, as well as many ornamental flowers,
like these zinnias.
3. The Bean Family -Fabaceae
Many common food plants belong to this family, including beans, peas, carob, lentils, mesquite, etc. The seeds are contained in pods. The flowers are complex.
tepary beans, and
4. The Mint Family – Lamiaceae
The members of this family include many common herbs. Most have square (four-sided) stems and many have similar tubular flowers.
This flower structure is from a spearmint plant.
These are the tubular flowers of Mexican oregano.
5. The Lily Family – Liliaceae Edit: Now Amaryllidaceae
The plants of this family are known to have special swollen structures for storing food, such as bulbs or corms.
onions (the bulb),
onion (the flower)
garlic chives, etc.
Ornamental lilies also belong to this family.
6. The Grass Family- Poaceae
Grasses are unique plants because they grow from the base instead of the tips. Many crops are members of this family including rice, corn, wheat and barley.
Grass flowers consist of spikelets.
7. The Rose Family – Rosaceae
The flowers of members of the rose family typically have five petals and five sepals. Many of the different types of fruit we eat come from plants that belong to the rose family.
and apples, as well as pears, peaches and even strawberries.
8. The Nightshade Family – Solanaceae
Our final plant family contains crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. The flower petals are often fused together rather than separate.