The Caryophyllaceae are herbs or rarely subshrubs comprising about 75 genera and 2,000 species further characterized by p-plastids and usually swollen nodes. The leaves are simple, nearly always opposite and decussate, and are estipulate or sometimes have scarious stipules. The flowers are actinomorphic and mostly bisexual. Although the corolla rarely may be absent, the perianth typically consists of a calyx of 5 connate sepals and a corolla of 5 distinct, frequently clawed petals. The stamens are in one or two whorls, either equaling or twice the number of petals. The gynoecium consists of a single compound pistil of 2-5 carpels, usually with an equal number of styles and with a superior ovary that has a single locule with numerous free central ovules. In some cases the ovary is 3-5 loculed with axile placentation basally and l-loculed with free central placentation above. Occasionally, there may be a single basal ovule. The fruit most commonly is capsular.

Each "thumbnail" image below is linked to a larger photograph.

Arenaria sp, sandwort.
Cerastium arvense, field chickweed, vic. Newport, OR, 2002.
Cerastium fontanum subsp. vulgare,  mouse-eared chickweed. This typical representative of the family has five sepals, five bilobed petals, 10 stamens in two whorls, and 5 styles.
Dianthus caryophyllus, sweet william. Note the swollen nodes with opposite leaves and the tubular calyx. Five styles and 10 stamens are present in this species. The cut away view in the third photo shows the long basal claw on the remaining petal. The ovary has been longitudinally sectioned to show the free central placentation in the single locule.
Drymaria cordata, pipili, pilipili.  Note the very deeply bilobed petals, 3 styles.
Moehringia macrophylla, bigleaf sandwort, vic. Umpqua, OR, April, 2004.
Sagina maxima subsp. crassicaulis, seacoast pearlwort, Hadfield Marine Science Center, OR, October 21, 2005.
Schiedea adamantis. This is one of several species in this Hawaiian endemic genus. The species show an interesting evolutionary modification toward the dioecious condition. The plant in the 2nd photo has flowers that are perfect while the plants in the 3rd and 4th photos are functionally female with very reduced stamens (staminodes) and well-developed pistils. Note the three well developed styles on each pistil.
sch_glo_habs.jpg (11260 bytes)
Schiedea globosa,  flowers functionally unisexual or sometimes perfect, O'ahu, Hawai'i, endemic genus.
Schiedea kealiae, flowers functionally unisexual, Kealia Trail, O'ahu, Hawai'i, endemic genus.
Silene hookeri, Indian pink, OR, 2003.
sil_str_mids.jpg (10257 bytes)
Silene struthioloides, catchfly, Hawaiian endemic.
Spergularia marina, salt-marsh sand-spurrey.
Stellaria media, chickweed.

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