The Piperaceae are fleshy herbs, soft shrubs, and infrequently small trees comprising 10 genera and 1,400 to 2,000 species. The nodes are commonly swollen or jointed. The leaves are alternate or rarely opposite or whorled, stipules are adnate to petiole or absent. The bisexual, or less commonly unisexual flowers are minute, lack perianth and usually are densely packed into rat-tail like spikes. Each flower is associated with a peltate, umbrella-like bract. The androecium consists of 1-10 stamens. The compound pistil has a superior ovary and consists of 1-5 carpels with a single locule and a solitary basal ovule. The fruit is a berry or drupe.
Each "thumbnail" image below is linked to a larger photograph.
|Peperomia caperata. Note the tiny flowers in the rat-tail-like spike.|
|Peperomia tetraphylla, 'ala 'ala wai-nui. Note the succulent leaves, fleshy stems, and rat-tail-like spikes of very tightly packed tiny flowers in this native Hawaiian species. Each tiny flower consists of a dark, protruding ovary with two flanking yellowish stamens. Associated with each flower, directly below the ovary, is a greenish peltate bract.|
|Peperomia remyi, 'ala 'ala wai nui. Note the rat-tail like spikes and the herbaceous nature of this Hawaiian endemic.|
|Peperomia sp. Each flower may be identified by a slightly protruding green ovary with a blackish stigma, a pair of whitish anthers, and a pale greenish circular subtending bract.|
||Peperomia sp. Each flower consists of a dark pistil flanked by two lighter stamens and is subtended by a greenish peltate bract.|
|Peperomia sp., 'ala'ala wai nui, O'ahu, endemic.|
||Piper methysticum, 'awa, kava, used in the preparation of a narcotic drink.|
|Piper nigrum, pepper. Note the immature fruits (2) and nearly ripe fruits (3).|
Plant Family Access Page