Families

Descriptions of Plant Families

 

Format:

Habit; if not otherwise noted (i. e. Pteridophyte or Monocot), family is a Dicotyledon; roots; stipules, if any. Leaves; position, stalk; blade; surface; veins; margin. Flowers (unisexual, if applicable); floral symmetry; flower size (if consistent); petals, size, number, sepals (if significant), ovary position, style, stamens, number; bracts (if any); inflorescence structure]. Fruit type, color (if fleshy); size; seeds. Notes: Genera or species in NYC, listed individually if four or less.

These summaries mostly synthesized from Fernald (1950) and Gleason and Cronquist (1991).

 

Herbs. Leaves opposite, simple, veins pinnate. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical to almost radially symmetrical, petals fused, corolla tubular, two lipped, or five-lobed; ovary superior, comprised of two compartments, tipped by stigma; stamens 2 or 4, alternating with petal lobes; flowers accompanied by bracts, sometimes large, showy. Fruit dry, hollow, 2-parted, splitting open explosively down the center of each compartment to release seeds. Notes: Justicia americana is the only species of Acanthaceae in NYC.

 

Aceraceae (maple family)

Trees, some shrubs. Leaves opposite, usually simple, sometimes compound, ours with palmate veins and lobes, margins toothed. Flowers often unisexual; radially symmetrical; small; petals and sepals mostly five, overlapping, mostly free, sometimes fused at base; ovary above insertion of petals (superior), comprised of two compartments, laterally compressed; stamens mostly eight but variable, (4, 5, 10-12). Fruit dry, winged. Two fruits fused end to end (double samara). Notes: Acer is the only genus of this family in the Americas. Aceraceae is sometimes included in Sapindaceae.

 

Adiantaceae (maidenhair fern family)

Ferns, leaf stalk slender (class: Filicopsida, division: Pteridophyta);. Leaves two or more times compound. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases just inside leaflet margin. Notes: Adiantum pedatum and Pellaea atropurpurea are the two remaining species of Adiantaceae in NYC. They are often put into the fern family Pteridaceae.

 

Agavaceae (Agave family)

Large, evergreen herbs (Monocotyledons). Leaves crowded in a dense cluster (rosette) at base of plant or ends of stems, blade strap-like to linear, often widest near base, tip tapered to a point, often spine tipped, stiff, fleshy, margin sometimes spiny. Flowers radially symmetrical, tubular, petals and sepals, 3, fused, all similar, at the top of a branched stalk; ovary inferior. Fruit dry, hollow. Notes: Yucca filamentosa is our only species of Agavaceae (escaped from cultivation). It is native from Maryland south.

 

Alismataceae (water plantain family)

Sagittaria latifolia.src.sfasu.edu

Sagittaria latifolia.src.sfasu.edu Accessed 9/2015).

Emergent, aquatic herbs (Monocotyledons), colonial from creeping stems. Leaves all basal, base of stalk sheathing flower stem, blade usually broad, major veins arising from insertion of leaf stalk, looping upward, paralleling midrib and rejoining at leaf tip, those of basal lobes, when present, looping out and downward, those closest to midrib rejoining at lobe tip. Flowers radially symmetrical, 3-parted, petals white, sepals green, stamens 6 to numerous; ovary superior. Fruit dry, 1-seeded (achenes). Notes: Alisma subcordatum and Sagittaria latifolia are the only two species remaining in NYC.

 

Amaranthaceae (amaranth family)

Mostly herbs, stems often reddish. Leaves alternate or opposite, stalked, blade simple, base often extending down stalk, veins usually pinnate, margin smooth. Flowers very small, dry, radially symmetrical, no petals, mostly whitish, greenish to tan or pink, sometimes reddish, accompanied by small stiff bracts; inflorescence usually of densely crowded clusters arranged in heads or spikes. Fruit usually very small, dry, 1-seeded. Notes: Amaranthus and Froelichia are the two genera of Amaranthaceae found in NYC.

 

Anacardiaceae (cashew family)

Woody plants, sap often irritating, sometimes milky. Leaves alternate, usually pinnate with an odd number of leaflets. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, usually 5-parted; ovary superior; inflorescence of branched clusters at ends of twigs. Fruit hard, barely fleshy, one seeded. Notes: Our genera are Rhus and Toxicodendron.

 

Annonaceae (custard-apple family)

Woody plants. Leaves alternate, usually arranged in one plane along sides of the stem, blade simple, veins pinnate. Flowers radially symmetrical, very small, fragrant; petals usually 6 in 2 sets of 3; sepals 3; ovary superior; stamens numerous; often solitary in leaf axils. Fruit fleshy, sometimes large, seeds numerous. Notes: Asimina triloba is our only species. It is native to western NYS and west, south to FL and TX.

 

Apiaceae (Umbelliferae; carrot family)

Herbs, sap aromatic, often poisonous, stems hollow between leaf nodes, base of leaf stalk sheathing stem. Leaves alternate, blade pinnate or divided, sometimes simple, base usually expanded and sheathing stem. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, 5-parted, most often white, green or yellow; ovary inferior; inflorescence usually of compound umbels (umbrella-shaped clusters of umbrella-shaped clusters). Branches of the cluster are called rays. Fruit dry, small, of 2 loosely fused parts, each 1-seeded. Plants identified most often by differences in fruits. Notes: Eleven genera of Apiaceae grow in NYC.

 

Apocynaceae (dogbane family)

Herbs or vines, often forming colonies, sap milky. Leaves opposite, blade simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, tubular, usually 5 parted; ovary superior; stamens 5, alternating with petal lobes. Fruit dry, hollow, pod-like, slender, paired and attached at base, seeds numerous, often plumed. Notes: The two genera that grow in NYC are Apocynum and Vinca (non-native).

 

Aquifoliaceae (holly family)

Trees or shrubs. Leaves alternate, simple, often evergreen, margins usually toothed or spiny. Flowers radially symmetrical, males and females of different plants (dioecious); 4-8 parted, petals usually fused at base; ovary superior; stamens alternating with petals. Fruit fleshy, mostly black or red; several seeds. Notes: Ilex is the only genus of Aquifoliaceae found in NYC.

 

Araceae (arum family)

Herbs, (Monocotyledons). Leaves alternate, base of leaf stalk sheathing stem; blade simple to divided, margins smooth. Flowers minute, ovary superior; densely covering a spike-like, fleshy, cylindrical inflorescence (spadix), a large bract (spathe) grows from the base of the spadix and often envelopes it like a hood. Fruit fleshy. Notes: Four genera of Araceae grow in NYC; Acorus, Arisaema, Peltandra and Symplocarpus.

 

Araliaceae (ginseng family)

Herbs or shrubs; stem sometimes encircled by leaf scars, many of ours forming colonies from root sprouts; stipules present. Leaves alternate; leaf stalk usually broad, sheathing stem at base; blade usually pinnate or palmately compound or lobed, often very large. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, mostly 5-parted; petals free; calyx small or none; ovary inferior; inflorescence often of rounded flower clusters. Fruit fleshy, 1-seeded, small. Notes: The three genera of Araliaceae in NYC are Aralia, Hedera (not native) and Panax.

 

Aristolochiaceae (birthwort family)

Herbs, sap usually aromatic. Leaves alternate; simple, heart to kidney-shaped with a lobed base; major veins palmate; margins smooth. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, tubular, inflated at base, often large, “S” or pipe shaped; often foul smelling; ovary inferior. Fruit usually dry, hollow, seeds numerous. Notes: Aristolochia clematis (non-native) and Asarum canadense are the only two species of Aristolochiaceae in NYC.

 

Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed family)

Herbs or vines with milky, sticky sap. Leaves opposite; simple; margins usually smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, 5 parted, with a central crown-like structure; ovary superior; flower clusters often umbrella shaped. Fruit dry, hollow, usually in pairs, opening along one side to release numerous seeds with silky tassels. Notes: Asclepias and Vincetoxicum (non-native) are the two genera of Asclepiadaceae in NYC.

 

Aspleniaceae (spleenwort family)

Ferns (Filicopsida) Pteridophyte from a scaly underground stem (rhizome). Leaves usually pinnately compound and lobed, margins often toothed. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases on lower leaf surface, mostly along secondary veins between midrib and leaflet margin. Notes: There are seven genera of Aspleniaceae in NYC. The largest is Dryopteris. We have lost 13 of the 26 species found here prior to 1980.

 

Asteraceae (Compositae; Aster family)

Herbs, shrubs, vines; sap sometimes milky. Leaves mostly alternate, sometimes opposite, simple or compound, margin often toothed, lobed or divided. Flowers very small, in a compact head that arises from a bract-covered floral base (involucre); the flowers are of two forms: tubular and more or less radially symmetrical (disk flowers), or bilaterally symmetrical with one enlarged petal (ray flowers); heads may consist of all ray flowers, all disk flowers (discoid) or an outer ring of rays surrounding a center of disk flowers (as in a daisy); ovary inferior; flower heads mostly in branched clusters (Asters), sometimes solitary (dandelion). Fruit dry, small, 1-seeded (achene), often with a plume or bristles. Notes: Asteraceae is one of the largest plant families in the world with about 1100 genera, and 25,000 species. There are about 55 genera of Asteraceae in NYC (native and non-native). The genus Aster has recently been broken into a number of different genera none of which is Aster (see: plants.USDA.gov).

 

Balsaminaceae (touch-me-not family)

Herbs with succulent, translucent stems, nodes enlarged. Leaves alternate, simple, margins generally toothed or wavy. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, petals 3, the upper one broad, two-lobed; sepals 3, upper two small, the lower one enlarged into a funnel-shaped tube with an elongate end, sharply bent backward; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, pod-like, often exploding to release seeds. Notes: Impatiens capensis and I. pallida are the only species of Balsaminaceae in NYC. The familiar summer garden Impatiens is from tropical Asia.

 

Berberidaceae (barberry family)

Herbs and shrubs. Leaves alternate or basal, simple to compound. Flowers radially symmetrical, 4 or 6 parted, petals and sepals free; ovary superior. Fruit fleshy or dry, seed often with a fleshy attachment (aril). Notes: Berberis (non-natives), Caulophyllum and Podophyllum are the three genera of Berberidaceae found in NYC.

 

 

Betulaceae (birch family)

Trees and shrubs. Leaves alternate, simple; veins pinnate; margins toothed; stipules present, deciduous. Flowers tiny, inconspicuous, either male or female (monoecious); female flowers in small, sometimes cone-like groups, often held erect; male flowers packed in pendulous, cylindrical, scaly clusters (catkins). Fruit dry, small, often winged; single seeded. Notes: There are five genera of Betulaceae in NYC; Alnus, Betula, Carpinus, Corylus, Ostrya.

Bignoniaceae (trumpet creeper family)

Trees or woody vines. Leaves opposite, sometimes compound. Flowers slightly bilaterally symmetrical, tubular, usually large and showy, petal lobes 5, calyx 5 lobed; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, pod-like, usually long and thin, 2-parted; splitting open to release winged seeds. Notes: There are three genera of Bignoniaceae in NYC; Campsis, Catalpa, and Paulownia. None are native to the New York City region.

 

Blechnaceae (deer fern family)

Ferns (Filicopsida) Pteridophytes, colonial, leaves arising along a dark, scaly, creeping underground stem. Leaves once pinnate, leaflets sometimes pinnately lobed (pinnatifid), fertile leaves often narrower and taller than non-spore bearing leaves. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases elongated, in one row on each side of the midrib. Notes: Woodwardia areolata and W. virginica are the only two species of Blechnaceae in NYC.

 

Boraginaceae (borage family)

Herbaceous plants, often coarsely hairy. Leaves alternate, simple, often hairy; margins usually smooth. Flowers usually radially symmetrical, tubular, petal-tube long, petal lobes 5, edges often overlapping (imbricate); sepals 5; ovary superior; stamens 5, attached to inside of tube, alternating with petal lobes; flowers often in a double row along one side of a flower stalk that uncoils from the tip as it grows (scorpioid). Fruit dry, usually of four nutlets enclosed in the hairy calyx. Notes: There are four genera of Boraginaceae in NYC; Echium, Hackelia, Myosotis, and Symphytum. These genera include both native and exotic plants.

 

Brassicaceae (Cruciferae; mustard family)

Herbs, ours often annuals, all producing irritating mustard oils. Leaves alternate, often pinnately divided. Flowers radially symmetrical, 4-parted, petals forming a cross-like pattern, each petal usually with a narrow base and expanded tip; ovary superior; stamens usually 6; inflorescence usually of elongating, spike-like clusters, with flowers developing at top, fruit developing below. Fruit dry, hollow, usually splitting open along side seams to release seeds. Notes: There are about 22 genera of Brassicaceae in NYC. Most are non-native agricultural weeds, some are escaped ornamentals. Only about seven native species remain.

 

Buddlejaceae (butterfly-bush family)

Shrubs, multistemmed, slender. Leaves opposite, simple, usually scaly or hairy. Flowers radially symmetrical, tubular, 4-parted; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, seeds often winged. Notes: Buddleja davidii is the only species of Buddlejaceae in NYC. It is an escaped Asian ornamental.

 

Buxaceae (boxwood family)

Woody or herbaceous evergreen plants. Leaves opposite or alternate. Flowers small, radially symmetrical, no petals, sepals free; inflorescence usually a spike. Fruit dry or fleshy, seeds black. Notes: Pachysandra terminalis, an escaped ornamental ground cover, is the only species of Buxaceae regularly found in NYC natural areas. The shrub, Buxus sempervirens may be rarely found in overgrown horticultural sites.

 

Cabombaceae (water shield family)

Aquatic herbs rooted in mud, colonial from creeping roots, upper stems floating. Leaves opposite (ours), mostly submerged, finely divided. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals and sepals 3, all petal-like, white with yellow base. Fruit leathery, small. Notes: Cabomba caroliniana is our only species of Cabombaceae.

 

Cactaceae (cactus family)

Leafless plants with green, succulent stems, usually ribbed, or flattened, usually with spines (modified leaves) or bristles in small cushions, old stems corky or woody. Flowers radially or sometimes slightly bilaterally symmetrical, often large and showy, floral parts numerous, petals often extending down flower base as bracts; ovary inferior; flowers solitary. Fruit usually fleshy, occasionally dry, seeds numerous. Notes: Opuntia humifusa is our only species of Cactaceae.

 

Caesalpiniaceae: See Fabaceae

 

Callitrichaceae (water-starwort family)

Aquatic or terrestrial herbs, much branched, usually annual. Leaves opposite, small. Flowers without petals or sepals, unisexual, female flowers 4-lobed. Fruit dry, 4-lobed, very small. Notes: Callitriche is the only genus in this family. There are three species of Callitriche in New York City.

 

Calycanthaceae (strawberry-shrub family)

One shrub, sap aromatic. Leaves opposite, simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals and sepals alike, narrow, numerous, spirally arranged around fleshy ovary, stamens spiraled above petals. Fruit fleshy, hollow. Notes: Calycanthus floridus is the only species of Calycanthaceae in NYC.

 

Campanulaceae (bellflower family)

Herbs. Leaves usually alternate, simple. Flowers radially or bilaterally symmetrical, 5 parted, tubular, curved, petal lobes 5, often two-lipped or split on upper side, ovary inferior, stamens fused,  facing inward, forming a tube, style growing up through anther tube. Fruit usually dry, hollow, seeds numerous. Notes: There are three genera of Campanulaceae in NYC: Campanula, Lobelia, and Triodanis.

 

Cannabaceae (Indian hemp family)

Herbs and vines, often hairy. Leaves mostly opposite, palmately lobed or compound. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, 5-parted, petals none, sepals short to none; males and females on separate plants (dioecious). Fruit dry, 1-seeded (achene), sometimes surrounded by old calyx. Notes: There are two genera of Cannabaceae in NYC, Cannabis sativa, exotic, rarely naturalized, occasionally planted in natural areas, Humulus japonicus (exotic) and H. lupulus (part native).

 

Capparaceae (Capparidaceae; caper family)

Herbs producing mustard oils, ours annual. Leaves alternate, three-parted. Flowers radially to slightly bilaterally symmetrical, petals 4, narrowed at base. Fruit dry, hollow, elongate, splitting open along sides to release seeds. Notes: Cleome hassleriana is the only species of this family in NYC. It is native to southern South America.

 

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle family)

Mostly shrubs, a few herbs. Leaves opposite, simple to pinnately compound. Flowers radially symmetrical, tubular, 5-parted; ovary inferior; inflorescence often in rather dense, often domed or flat-topped branched clusters, usually with bracts. Fruit fleshy or dry, small. Notes: There are five genera of Caprifoliaceae in NYC: Diervilla, Lonicera, Sambucus, Triosteum, and Viburnum.

 

Caryophyllaceae (Pink family)

Herbs, stems usually swollen at nodes, leaf stalk bases often joined across stem, forming a line around the node. Leaves opposite, often fairly narrow, simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals 5, free; sepals 5; ovary superior; stamens usually 10. Fruit, dry, hollow, with numerous seeds. Notes: There are thirteen genera of Caryophyllaceae in NYC.

 

Celastraceae (Staff-tree family)

Shrubs and woody vines. Leaves opposite or alternate, simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, greenish or white, 4-5 parted; ovary superior; inflorescence of clusters at ends of branches or in axils. Fruit often dry, opening to expose seeds enclosed in a fleshy coat (aril). Notes: There are two genera of Celastraceae found in NYC: Celastrus and Euonymus.

 

Ceratophyllaceae (Hornwort family)

Submerged, rootless aquatic herbs, stems elongate, branching. Leaves whorled, finely divided in a forked pattern (dichotomous). Flowers small, inconspicuous in axils, no petals, sepals 8-14, minute. Fruit dry, 1-seeded achene. Notes: Ceratophyllum demersum and C. echinatum are the only two species of Ceratophyllaceae in NYC.

 

Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot family)

Herbs. Leaves usually alternate, simple, sometimes reduced (Salicornia). Flowers radially symmetrical, small, greenish, sepals usually 5, no petals; ovary superior; inflorescence often of dense, mealy clusters in axils. Fruit dry, small, sometimes with a membranous fruit wall splitting around the circumference of the seed, often enclosed in persistent sepals, seeds lens-shaped. Notes: There are seven genera of Chenopodiaceae in NYC. Position of the seed (horizontal or erect) is important for identification of species. Use lens.

Cistaceae (Rock-rose family)

Herbs or small shrubs. Leaves alternate, opposite or whorled, small, narrow, simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, except sepals, petals 3, 5 or none, sepals 5, outer 2 smaller than inner 3; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Hudsonia and Lechea are the two genera of Cistaceae found in NYC.

Clethraceae (Clethra family)

Shrubs. Leaves alternate, simple, margin toothed. Flowers radially symmetrical, 5-parted, petals essentially free; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release small winged seeds. Notes: Clethra alnifolia is the only species of Clethraceae in NYC.

 

Clusiaceae (Guttiferae; mangosteen family)

Herbaceous plants (ours). Leaves opposite, simple, margins usually smooth, surface often sprinkled with tiny dots. Flowers radially symmetrical, usually yellow, 4-5 parted, petals free, each overlapping the edge of the next (imbricate); ovary superior; stamens 5 to numerous. Fruit dry, hollow, seeds numerous. Notes: Hypericum and Triadenum are the genera of Clusiaceae found in NYC.

 

Commelinaceae (Spiderwort family)

Herbs (Monocotyledons), usually somewhat succulent, nodes conspicuous, leaf sheath closed around the stem. Leaves alternate, simple, veins parallel. Flowers radially or bilaterally symmetrical, usually blue or white, 3 parted, sepals and petals free; ovary superior; stamens 6. Fruit dry, hollow, 3-parted, thin-walled, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Commelina and Tradescantia are the two genera of Commelinaceae found in NYC.

 

Convolvulaceae (Morning-glory family)

Mostly twining herbaceous vines without tendrils. Leaves alternate, simple, often lobed. Flowers radially symmetrical, often showy, petals fused, often funnel shaped, 5-lobed, often conspicuously twisted in bud, sepals 5, usually free sometimes unequal; ovary superior; flowers often above a pair of sepal-like bracts. Fruit dry, hollow, base cupped in persistent sepals, spitting open to release seeds. Notes: Calystegia, Convolvulus, and Ipomoea are the three genera of Convolvulaceae found in NYC.

 

Cornaceae (Dogwood family)

Trees and shrubs, (ours). Leaves opposite (rarely alternate), simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, usually 4-parted, petals free, calyx very small; ovary inferior; flowers sometimes in a small, dense cluster above large showy bracts. Fruit fleshy, mostly 1-seeded. Notes: Cornus and Nyssa are the two genera of Cornaceae in NYC. To the best of my knowledge, Cornus canadensis is extinct in the City.

 

Crassulaceae (Stonecrop family)

Succulent herbs. Leaves alternate, opposite or whorled, fleshy, simple, usually with smooth margins, many have waxy or hairy leaf surfaces. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals and sepals 4-5; ovary superior; stamens 8-10; flowers small, but often in showy clusters. Fruit dry, hollow. Notes: Sedum is the only genus of Crassulaceae in NYC, none are native to our region.

 

Cucurbitaceae (Gourd family)

Vines, mostly herbaceous, usually with coiled tendrils arising at nodes, stems often hairy. Leaves alternate, blade usually palmately lobed, or compound, veins palmate. Flowers radially symmetrical, usually yellow, orange or white, 5 parted, often trumpet shaped with petals fused, males and females separate on same plant (monoecious), ovary inferior; inflorescence of clusters or flowers solitary, arising in axils. Fruit fleshy or becoming dry, mostly hollow, seeds often in a central cavity, usually numerous, typically flattened and elliptical or oval. Notes: Echinocystis lobata and Sicyos angulatus are the two species of Cucurbitaceae found in NYC. Both are native to the region.

 

Cupressaceae (Cypress family)

Trees or shrubs (Gymnosperms). Leaves opposite or whorled, very small, scale-like, or needle-like in juvenile plants, usually appressed to twigs. Flowers: none. Fruit: none. Pollen produced in small, deciduous male cones. Seeds produced on the thick scales of larger, female cones, or fleshy, modified cones; scales of dry cones opening to release seeds; fleshy cones eaten by birds, which disperse the seeds. Notes: Chamaecyparis, and Juniperus are the two genera of Cupressaceae found in NYC.

 

Cuscutaceae (Dodder family)

Parasitic, twining vines without leaves or chlorophyll, stems usually orange to white, penetrating host tissues by means of in-growths (haustoria); root system of seedling soon degenerating. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, petals fused 4-5 lobed, sepals persistent. Fruit dry, round, splitting open to release 1-4 seeds. Notes: Cuscuta is the only genus in this family.

 

Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Grass-like, herbaceous plants (Monocotyledons), stems usually 3 sided, solid, usually unbranched below inflorescence; leaf sheaths closed around the stem below inflorescence. Leaves alternate, often in 3 ranks, blade linear, elongate. Flowers inconspicuous, surrounded by small papery bracts and clustered into heads (spikes) at top of flowering stem, sexes often separate on same plant (monoecious); inflorescence usually located above several elongate, leaf-like bracts. Fruit dry, 1-seeded. Notes: Genera and species are distinguished on the basis of technical aspects of the mature flower anatomy and can be very difficult to differentiate. There are nine genera of Cyperaceae found in NYC, Carex is the most numerous, most species are native.

 

Dennstaedtiaceae (Bracken family)

Ferns (Filicopsida) Pteridophyte, stems pale to dark brown with dark bases, stems and leaves with hairs or smooth, no scales. Leaves arising along an underground stem (rhizome), blade 2 to 3 times pinnate. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases borne along leaflet margins. Notes: Dennstaedtia punctilobula and Pteridium aquilinum are the only two species of Dennstaedtiaceae found in NYC.

 

Dioscoreaceae (Yam family)

Vines, (Monocotyledons), arising from a fleshy tuber. Leaves generally alternate, blades simple, often heart shaped, veins palmate, major veins converging at leaf tip. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, 6 parted; ovary inferior; flower clusters axillary; sexes usually on different plants (dioecious). Fruit dry, often triangular and 3-winged, seeds generally winged. Notes: Dioscorea villosa is the only species of Dioscoreaceae in the NYC region.

 

Dipsacaceae (teasel family)

Herbs. Leaves opposite. Flowers somewhat bilaterally symmetrical, 4-5 parted, tiny, in dense heads above a bract-covered base. Fruit dry, seed-like. Much like Asteraceae and apparently closely related to it. Notes: Dipsacus sylvestris is the only species of Dipsacaceae found in NYC.

 

Droseraceae (Sundew family)

Insectivorous herbs. Leaves alternate, in a basal rosette blades modified to attract and trap insects with sticky mucilage-tipped hairs. Flowers radially symmetrical, mostly 5-parted, petals free. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Plants of low nutrient bogs and marshes, mostly in sandy soil of pine barrens. Drosera filiformis and D. intermedia may still be found on Staten Island.

 

Ebenaceae (ebony family)

Trees. Leaves alternate, simple with smooth margins. Flowers radially symmetrical, tubular, petal lobes 3-6, sepals 3-6, fused, persistent; ovary superior; male and female flowers on usually on separate plants (dioecious), in leaf axils. Fruit fleshy with several seeds, enlarged sepals often persisting at base. Notes: Diospyros virginiana is the only species of Ebenaceae in NYC.

 

Elaeagnaceae (oleaster family)

Shrubs, usually scaly or hairy. Leaves alternate, simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, mostly 4-parted, no petals, sepals attached to floral base, flower appearing tubular; ovary inferior. Fruit fleshy, surrounding a single seed (achene). Notes: Elaeagnus angustifolia and E. umbellata, both invasive old-world natives, are the only two species of Elaeagnaceae in NYC.

 

Equisetaceae (Horsetail family)

Fern allies (Equisetopsida), terrestrial herbs with erect, aerial stems produced from creeping underground stems (rhizomes), above ground stems ribbed, hollow, jointed; branches, when present, in whorls at nodes. Leaves reduced to a toothed sheath surrounding each node, often dark. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none, reproducing by spores, as do ferns. Spores in cone-like structures at tops of main stem, sometimes on separate stems. Notes: This is an ancient plant family. Like Lycopodiaceae, they were one of the dominant groups of land plants some 400 million years ago. New York City has lost two of the four species of Equisetum found here prior to 1980. Equisetum arvense and E. hyemale are the two remaining species of Equisetaceae in NYC (DeCandido 2000).

Ericaceae (Heath family)

Shrubs and herbs; roots associated with ericoid mycorrhizae (see glossary). Leaves alternate, simple, usually firm, relatively small. Flowers radially symmetrical, generally tubular, commonly urn or vase-shaped, widest near the middle, narrowed at base and near the top just below the 4-5 flaring petal lobes, sepals 4-5, fused at base; ovary usually inferior; inflorescences branched. Fruit dry or fleshy, often crowned by persistent calyx, seeds small, numerous. Notes: There are six genera of Ericaceae remaining in NYC. We have lost four genera. All genera and species are native to the region. Ericaceae have very specific ecological requirements and horticultural Rhododendrons and azaleas do not escape into natural areas.

 

Euphorbiaceae (spurge family)

Herbs, sap often milky, stipules usually present, sometimes large, sometimes only as glands. Leaves usually alternate and simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, usually inconspicuous but occasionally with showy bracts, sexes separate, petals and sepals often lacking; ovary superior. Fruit usually dry, 3-parted, splitting open in segments to release seeds. Seeds often with fleshy attachment. Notes: Acalypha and Euphorbia are the only two genera of Euphorbiaceae in NYC.

 

Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

A group of three closely related plant families (see below) often included as a single family; species range from small herbs and vines to large trees; roots of most species can form nodules in association with Rhizobium bacteria that can take nitrogen from the air and convert it to forms usable by the plant (ammonia), this allows them to grow on poor soils; all have stipules. Leaves usually alternate, often pinnate, or 3-parted; leaf and leaflet stalks often with a swollen base. Flowers radially to strongly bilaterally symmetrical, mostly small to medium sized, petals and sepals mostly 5; ovary superior; stamens usually 10, often all but one fused. Fruit usually a dry, hollow pod (legume), splitting open to release bean-like seeds, these usually arranged in a row along the length of the pod.

 

Caesalpiniaceae (Fabaceae/Caesalpinioideae) (caesalpinia family)

Herbs, trees (ours). Leaves alternate, usually twice pinnately compound, occasionally simple or 2-parted, leaf and leaflet stalks swollen at their bases. Flowers weakly bilaterally symmetrical, often showy, 5 free petals, the uppermost internal to, and often smaller than the two lateral petals, stamens usually 10, often long, sepals 4-5. Fruit dry, hollow, a typical legume pod with several seeds. Notes: There are four genera of Caesalpiniaceae in NYC, Cercis, Chamaecrista, Gleditsia, and Gymnocladus.

 

Mimosaceae (Fabaceae/Mimosoideae) (Mimosa family)

One tree. Leaves alternate, twice pinnately compound, with numerous small leaflets, leaf and leaflet stalks swollen at bases. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, in tight, showy clusters, usually with 5 petals and sepals, numerous long stamens are the most conspicuous flower parts, giving the clusters a powder-puff or bottle brush appearance. Fruit dry, hollow, a typical legume pod, with several flattened seeds. Notes: Albizia julibrissin, an Asian ornamental, is the only species of Mimosaceae found in NYC natural areas.

Papilionaceae (Fabaceae/Papilionoideae) (bean or pea family)

Herbaceous or woody plants. Leaves alternate, usually pinnately compound, or 3-parted, leaf and leaflet stalks swollen at their bases, stipules sometimes present on leaf axis below leaflet stalks. Flowers strongly bilaterally symmetrical (typical bean flower shape) with 5 petals, one larger petal at the top (flag), external to the others, a petal on each side (wings), two fused petals at base (keel) enclosing stamens; sepals 5, partly fused; inflorescence usually of clusters, often showy. Fruit dry, hollow, a typical legume pod with several seeds (but see Desmodium). Notes: There are about 22 genera of Fabaceae in NYC.

 

Fagaceae (oak family)

Trees (a few shrub-like), stipules present, soon deciduous. Leaves alternate, simple, usually lobed. Flowers small, inconspicuous, sexes separate (Monoecious), male flowers in tassels, females in small clusters, no petals or sepals. Fruit a nut covered either by a thin woody shell, with top partly enclosed in a scaly cap (typical acorn of Quercus), or completely enclosed in a shell (Castanea). Eaten by many birds and mammals, many of which hide the seeds, thus “planting” seeds that are not eaten. Notes: Quercus, Fagus and Castanea are the three genera of Fagaceae in NYC.

 

Fumariaceae (fumitory family)

Herbs. Leaves alternate, finely divided. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, petals 4, two fused at base with a spur or hollow extension, the other two fused above, covering stamens; sepals 2, usually deciduous. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting in two to release seeds; seeds usually with a fleshy attachment (aril) attractive to ants. Notes: Dicentra cucullaria and D. eximia (non-native) are the only two species of Fumariaceae remaining in NYC.

 

Gentianaceae (gentian family)

Herbs. Leaves opposite, simple, usually with smooth margins. Flowers generally radially symmetrical, tubular, tube often long, sometimes with conical appendages (spurs), petal lobes 4-5, sepals 4-5; flowers in clusters or solitary, usually showy; ovary superior. Fruit usually dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: There are three genera of Gentianaceae, with a total of six species, remaining in NYC. Some species are listed as rare in NYS, all are uncommon.

 

Geraniaceae (geranium family)

Herbs, stems often hairy, slightly sticky, stipules present. Leaves alternate or opposite, lobed or compound. Flowers radially symmetrical, often showy, 5-parted, petals and sepals free; ovary superior; stamens 5-15; inflorescence usually branched. Fruit dry, very slender, 5-parted, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Erodium and Geranium are the only genera in this family.

 

Ginkgoaceae (ginkgo family)

See Ginkgo biloba, the only species in this family worldwide (Gymnosperms).

 

Haloragaceae (water-milfoil family)

Submerged or floating aquatic herbs. Leaves often whorled, finely divided with linear segments, sometimes bract-like. Flowers radially symmetrical, inconspicuous, no petals, sepals persistent; ovary inferior. Fruit small, nut-like. Notes: There are two genera of Haloragaceae, Myriophyllum and Proserpinaca.

 

Hamamelidaceae (witch hazel family)

Trees, shrubs. Leaves alternate, simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, 4-5 parted with or without petals. Fruit woody, hollow, splitting open across top to release seeds. Notes: Hamamelis virginiana and Liquidambar styraciflua are the only two species of Hamamelidaceae in the northeastern United States.Some non-native Hamamelis are grown as ornamentals.

 

Hippocastanaceae (horse-chestnut family)

Trees or shrubs. Leaves opposite, palmately compound with 3-11 leaflets. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, petals 4-5, free, base very narrow. Fruit large, a corky-woody husk, splitting in two to release a very large seed with a pale scar on one side. Notes: Aesculus flava and A. hippocastanum are the only two species of Hippocastanaceae in NYC. Neither is native to the metropolitan region.

 

Hydrangeaceae (hydrangea family)

Shrubs. Leaves opposite, simple. Flowers mostly radially symmetrical, 4-5 parted, petals free; ovary mostly inferior; stamens 8 to numerous. Fruit dry, hollow. Notes: Philadelphus and Deutzia are the only genera of Hydrangeaceae in NYC. Neither is native to our region.

 

Hydrocharitaceae (frog’s-bit family)

Aquatic herbs (Monocotyledons). Leaves opposite or in whorls of three, narrow. Flowers radially symmetrical, 3-parted, very small. Fruit hollow, opening to release seeds under water. Notes: Elodea canadensis is our only species of Hydrocharitaceae.

 

[Isoëtaceae (quillwort family).

Grass-like aquatic or wetland herbs from a bulb-like rootstock (fern allies). New York has lost both species of Isoëtes found here prior to 1980 (DeCandido 2000).]

 

Iridaceae (iris family)

Herbs (Monocotyledons) growing from a fleshy underground structure (rhizome, bulb, corm). Leaves alternate, bases often sheathing one another, blades narrow, parallel-veined, flat, in two ranks, often with a fan-like arrangement. Flowers bilaterally or radially symmetrical, 6-parted in two cycles of 3 parts, petals and sepals often alike, fused at base, usually showy; ovary inferior; inflorescence a cluster at top of a leafless stalk, usually above a bract. Fruit dry, hollow, 3-parted, splitting open to release numerous seeds. Notes: There are three genera of Iridaceae in NYC: Crocus, Iris and Sisyrinchium.

 

Juglandaceae (walnut family)

Trees. Leaves alternate, pinnately compound, aromatic when crushed. Flowers radially symmetrical, greenish, sexes separate on same plant (monoecious), males flowers tiny 4-parted, in long drooping catkins, on twigs of previous year, female flowers 4-parted; ovary inferior; solitary or in small clusters on new growth. Fruit a large nut covered by a corky, aromatic husk. Notes: Carya and Juglans are the two genera in this family, both found in NYC.

 

Juncaceae (rush family)

Grass-like herbs (Monocotyledons), stems generally cylindrical. Leaves alternate, basal or none, blades linear, when present. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, 3-parted, sepals and petals papery, scale-like, greenish or brownish, small; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting in 3 parts to release seeds. Notes: Juncus and Luzula are the two genera in Juncaceae, both are found in NYC.

 

Lamiaceae (Labiatae; mint family)

Herbs, often hairy and aromatic, stems characteristically 4-sided. Leaves opposite, usually simple, margins often toothed, each pair at right angles to those above and below. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, generally small, tubular, petal tube 2-lipped, 5-lobed; calyx 5-lobed; ovary superior; stamens 2-4; inflorescence often of compact heads or spike-like clusters, accompanied by small bracts. Fruit dry, small, of 4 nutlets. Notes: There are about 17 genera of Lamiaceae in NYC.

 

Lauraceae (laurel family)

Trees or shrubs; sap and leaves aromatic. Leaves alternate, simple, venation usually pinnate, margins usually smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, sexes on separate plants (dioecious), small, petals none; sepals usually 6, in 2 whorls of 3; ovary superior; inflorescence usually of branched clusters in axils. Fruit fleshy, one seeded. Notes: Lindera benzoin and Sassafras albidum are the two species of Lauraceae in NYC.

 

Lemnaceae (duck weed family)

Tiny, free floating aquatic herbs (Monocotyledons), body flat, no stem or leaves; roots, if any, growing from base of the plant body; colonial from budding along sides of body (thallus). Flowers and Fruit minute and obscure, seldom produced. Notes: The genera Lemna, Spirodela and Wolffia are found in NYC.

 

Lentibulariaceae (bladderwort family)

Small aquatic herbs. Leaves alternate, finely divided into linear segments, small, with small bladder-like traps. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, petal lobes 5, lower lip forming a sack or hollow spur. Fruit ovary superior, small, dry, hollow. Notes: Utricularia is the only genus of this family in NYC.

 

Liliaceae (lily family)

Herbs (Monocotyledons), from a fleshy underground stem or bulb. Leaves alternate, simple, narrow, veins parallel, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, often showy, 3 or 6 parted, sepals and petals alike. Fruit most often dry and hollow, sometimes fleshy. Notes: There are about 19 genera of Liliaceae in NYC. Some taxonomic systems divide Liliaceae into several families. A number of plants in the lily family are significant members of the herbaceous layer in NYC forest understory communities. Presence of these plants, (Erythronium americanum, Lilium sp., Maianthemum canadense, Polygonatum sp., Smilacina racemosa, Uvularia sp.) is usually a good indicator of high quality forest habitat (personal observation).

 

Linaceae (flax family)

Herbs. Leaves alternate, narrow, simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, 5-parted, petals free, bases narrow, soon deciduous, sepals persistent; ovary superior, anther stalks broadened and fused near base. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Linum medium and L. usitatissimum are the only two species of Linaceae in NYC.

 

Lycopodiaceae (clubmoss family)

Lythraceae (loosestrife family)

Herbs. Leaves opposite, simple with smooth margins. Flowers usually radially or bilaterally symmetrical, petals 4-8, free, borne on rim of 4-6 lobed enlarged calyx tube, sometimes with an extra row of sepal-like appendages below calyx lobes; ovary superior (from within calyx tube); stamens 8-16. Fruit dry, nut-like or hollow, seeds numerous. Notes: Cuphea, Decodon, Lythrum and Rotala are the four genera of Lythraceae found in NYC.

 

Magnoliaceae (Magnolia family)

Trees or shrubs, stipules large, enfolding terminal bud and falling off as leaf expands leaving a scar around each node. Leaves alternate, simple, veins pinnate, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, large, petals usually numerous, sepals about the same as petals; ovary superior; stamens numerous, spirally arranged on a central structure derived from the flower base (receptacle); flowers solitary at ends of twigs. Fruit becoming dry, irregularly shaped or cone-like. Notes: Magnoliaceae is one of the most ancient families of flowering plants, originating around 144 million years ago. Magnolia acuminata, M. virginiana and Liriodendron tulipifera are the only species of Magnoliaceae in NYC. There are numerous exotic, ornamental Magnolia species and hybrids but they rarely if ever escape from cultivation.

 

Malvaceae (mallow family)

Herbs (ours), usually hairy, with stipules. Leaves alternate, simple, veins usually palmate, margins toothed, lobed or smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, often showy, petals 5, free, bases overlapping, sepals 5, often persistent; ovary superior; stamens numerous, stalks (filaments) usually united into a central column. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds, which are often embedded in hairs. Notes: Abutilon, Althaea, Hibiscus and Malva are the four genera of Malvaceae found in NYC.

 

Melastomataceae (melastome family)

Herbs with 4-angled stems. Leaves opposite, simple, margins usually smooth, veins characteristically palmate with 3-9 parallel major veins and secondary veins at right angles to primaries in a ladder-like pattern. Flowers radially symmetrical, showy, petals 4-5, free, stamens 8-14, usually with an elbow-like bend in stalk with anthers all at one side of the flower, sepals 4-6, persistent; ovary superior. Fruit dry, seeds numerous. Notes: Rhexia virginica is the only species of Melastomataceae in NYC.

 

Meliaceae (mahogany family)

Trees, sap often aromatic. Leaves alternate, pinnately compound, often clustered at tips of branches. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, petals and sepals, 4-6, free or fused at base; ovary superior; stamens 8-12, stalks (filaments) often fused into a tube. Fruit fleshy or dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds, which are winged or have a fleshy attachment that is attractive to birds. Notes: Melia azedarach, an Asian ornamental, is the only species of Meliaceae in NYC. It occasionally escapes into natural areas.

 

Menispermaceae (moonseed family)

Twining, woody vines. Leaves alternate, simple, veins often palmate, margins usually smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, greenish-white, males and females on separate plants, petals 6, in two whorls, often fused, sepals 6, free, in two whorls; ovary superior; in male flowers stamens 3 to many, free or fused into a tube. Fruit fleshy, one seeded, seed often horseshoe-shaped. Notes: Menispermum canadense is the only species of Menispermaceae in NYC.

 

Menyanthaceae (buckbean family)

Aquatic herbs. Leaves alternate, simple or 3-parted. Flowers radially symmetrical, 5-parted, tubular, petal lobes not overlapping. Fruit dry, hollow. Notes: Nymphoides peltata, an invasive from Europe, is the only species of Menyanthaceae in NYC.

 

Molluginaceae (carpet-weed family)

Herbs. Leaves opposite or whorled. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals small or none, sepals 5, persistent; ovary superior; stamens 3-10. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Mollugo verticillata is the only species of Molluginaceae in NYC.

 

Monotropaceae (Indian pipe family)

Herbaceous plants without chlorophyll, closely associated with monotropoid mycorrhizal fungi (often members of the fungal family Russulaceae), stems white, red, yellow to brown. Leaves alternate, reduced to scales. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals and sepals usually 4-5; ovary superior; stamens mostly twice as many as petals. Fruit dry or fleshy; seeds tiny, numerous. Notes: Monotropa uniflora is our only species of Monotropaceae in NYC.

 

Moraceae (mulberry family)

Trees, sap milky or tan, stipules forming a cap over leaf bud, deciduous, leaving a scar around twig. Leaves almost always alternate, usually simple, sometimes palmately lobed. Flowers tiny, no petals, sepals 4-5, in compact crowded clusters, sexes separate on different plants (dioecious) or the same plant (monoecious). Fruit fleshy or dry, usually many fused together. Notes: Broussonetia, Maclura, and Morus are the three genera of Moraceae found in NYC. Our only native species is Morus rubra.

 

Myricaceae (bayberry family)

Shrubs with aromatic sap. Leaves alternate, simple, with glandular hairs, veins pinnate. Flowers minute, each in the axil of a tiny bract, no petals or sepals, sexes separate; crowded in small catkins. Fruit dry or waxy-coated. Notes: Comptonia peregrina and Myrica (Morella) pensylvanica are the only two species of Myricaceae in NYC.

 

Nyctaginaceae (four-O’clock family)

Herbs. Leaves opposite or sub-opposite, simple, margins usually smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, tubular, trumpet or star-shaped, calyx lobes 5; ovary superior; stamens 1-numerous, flowers often surrounded by petal-like bracts. Fruit nut-like, often enclosed within fleshy base of old flower. Notes: Mirabilis hirsuta and M. nyctaginea are the only species of Nyctaginaceae found in NYC.

 

Nymphaeaceae (water-lily family)

Aquatic herbs, colonial from underground stems (rhizomes). Leaves alternate, arising from the underground stem, stalk (petiole) elongate, blades simple, base usually lobed, margin smooth, submerged, floating or emergent. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals 8 to numerous, free, sepals 4-5, often petal-like; ovary superior; stamens numerous. Fruit spongy or leathery, seeds small. Notes: Nuphar and Nymphaea are the two genera of Nymphaeaceae in NYC.

 

Oleaceae (olive family)

Tree and shrubs. Leaves opposite, simple to compound. Flowers radially symmetrical, tubular, 4-lobed, calyx 4-lobed to none; ovary superior; stamens 2. Fruit dry to fleshy. Notes: Chionanthus, Forsythia, Fraxinus, Ligustrum and Syringa are the five genera of Oleaceae found in NYC.

 

Onagraceae (evening-primrose family)

Mostly herbs (ours). Leaves opposite or alternate, simple, margins smooth or toothed. Flowers mostly radially symmetrical, petals and sepals 4, free; ovary inferior; stamens usually 8; flower base often conspicuous, tubular or cup-shaped; flowers mostly solitary in axils, sometimes in unbranched clusters (spike-like). Fruit usually dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Circaea, Epilobium, Ludwigia and Oenothera are the genera of Onagraceae found in NYC.

 

Onocleaceae (sensitive fern family)

Ferns (Filicopsida) Pteridophyte, ours colonial from horizontal, below ground stems (rhizomes). Leaves of two types, stalk stout, straw-colored, base densely dark-scaly, blade of sterile leaves pinnate or pinnately lobed, margins wavy to deeply divided, fertile leaves much smaller than sterile, brown to black, twice pinnate. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none Spore cases under the in-rolled margins of fertile leaflets. Notes: Matteuccia struthiopteris and Onoclea sensibilis are the only two species of Onocleaceae found in NYC.

 

Ophioglossaceae (adder’s tongue family)

Small ferns (Filicopsida), stem short, below ground, roots associated with mycorrhizal fungi. Leaves usually solitary, stalk often bearing fertile leaf as well as sterile, blade of sterile leaf entire to twice or more pinnately divided. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases numerous on a branched fertile stalk. Notes: Botrychium dissectum and B. virginianum are the only species of Ophioglossaceae remaining in NYC.

 

Orchidaceae (orchid family)

Herbs (Monocotyledons); leaf sheath enclosing stem. Leaves alternate, stalk mostly not well differentiated, blade usually fleshy with obscure, parallel veins, only the midrib somewhat conspicuous, or with deeply impressed parallel veins giving the leaf a pleated appearance. Flowers typically bilaterally symmetrical, 3 parted, 3 sepals and 2 petals similar in appearance and the central or lower petal highly modified and elaborate, male and female flower parts united into a single structure; ovary inferior; inflorescence of terminal or axillary clusters. Fruit dry, hollow; exterior often ribbed, splitting open to release innumerable very minute, wind dispersed seeds, which cannot grow without uniting with a fungus. Notes: Orchidaceae is the largest family of flowering plants, worldwide there are 20,000 to 30,000 species. The lily family is probably the closest relative of the orchids. There are six genera of Orchidaceae, each with a single species, remaining in NYC (if all still extant). We have lost about 24 species of Orchids that were historically recorded (up to 1990) in NYC.

 

Orobanchaceae (broom-rape family)

Herbs, root parasites without chlorophyll; plants small, yellowish or brownish. Leaves reduced to scales. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, petal tube 2-lipped, 5-lobed, persistent. Fruit dry, hollow, seeds numerous. Notes: Conopholis americana, Epifagus virginiana and Orobanche uniflora are the three species of Orobanchaceae found in NYC.

 

Osmundaceae (royal fern family)

Ferns (Filicopsida); Pteridophyte from a stout stem covered with old leaf bases. Leaves once or twice pinnate, rather coarse, blades with a portion of spore-bearing leaflets or some leaves entirely fertile. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases entirely covering spore bearing leaflets which are reddish-brown and narrow. Notes: Osmunda cinnamomea, O. claytoniana and O. regalis are the three species of Osmundaceae found in NYC.

 

Oxalidaceae (wood sorrel family)

Herbs. Leaves alternate or basally clustered, 3-parted or palmately compound. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals and sepals 5; ovary superior, stamens 10, fused at base. Fruit usually dry splitting open to release seeds, sometimes explosively. Notes: Oxalis is the only genus of Oxalidaceae in NYC.

 

Papaveraceae (poppy family)

Herbs, sap milky or yellow. Leaves alternate, usually deeply lobed. Flowers radially symmetrical, showy, petals 4-6 in two whorls, sepals 2, enclosing bud, deciduous as flower opens; ovary superior; often large and conspicuous in center of flower; stamens numerous; flowers solitary or in clusters. Fruit dry, hollow, opening by slits or pores to release seeds. Seeds often with a fleshy attachment (aril) usually for dispersal by ants. Notes: Chelidonium majus, Macleaya cordata and Sanguinaria canadensis are the only three species of Papaveraceae found in NYC.

 

Pedaliaceae (sesame family)

Herbs. Leaves opposite below, upper leaves alternate, simple. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, tubular, petal lobes 5; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, usually armed with hooks, horns, or prickles. Notes: Proboscidea louisianica is the only species of Pedaliaceae found in NYC (if still extant).

 

Phytolaccaceae (pokeweed family)

Herbs. Leaves alternate, simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, no petals, sepals 4-5, free, persistent in fruit; ovary superior; stamens mostly 8-10; inflorescence usually of spike-like clusters. Fruit fleshy, or dry. Notes: Phytolacca americana is the only species of Phytolaccaceae in NYC, or in eastern North America.

 

Pinaceae (pine family)

Trees (Gymnosperms; not flowering or fruiting but producing seeds; branches in whorls, plant generally cone-shaped when young, becoming irregular, broad-crowned in age, sap resinous, very sticky. Leaves needle-like, short or long, spirally arranged, or in clusters of 2-5 on short twigs, typically evergreen (except Larix). Flowers none. Fruit none. Pollen produced on small, deciduous male cones. Seeds produced on the woody scales of larger, female cones. Seeds winged for wind dispersal, eaten by many animals and birds. Notes: Larix, Picea, Pinus and Tsuga are the genera of Pinaceae found in NYC.

 

Plantaginaceae (plantain family)

Low herbs. Leaves usually tightly spiraled at base of plant, blade simple, veins parallel. Flowers radially symmetrical, 4-parted, small, papery, persistent; ovary superior; inflorescence usually of narrow spikes. Fruit dry, hollow, or 1-seeded. Notes: Plantago is the only genus of Plantaginaceae in NYC.

 

Platanaceae (plane-tree family)

Trees with thin, peeling bark. Leaves alternate, veins palmate, margin sharply lobed. Flowers minute, in dense, round heads, dangling from a thin stalk, males and females in separate heads. Fruit dry, 1-seeded surrounded by numerous long hairs. Notes: Platanus occidentalis and P. x hybrida are the only two species of Platanaceae found in NYC.

 

Plumbaginaceae (leadwort family)

Herbs. Leaves alternate, simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, 5-parted, petals free, bases narrow, often persistent; calyx papery, persistent; ovary superior. Fruit dry, 1-seeded. Notes: Limonium carolinianum is the only species of Plumbaginaceae in NYC or in northeastern North America.

 

Poaceae (Gramineae) (grass family)

Polemoniaceae (phlox family)

Herbs. Leaves mostly opposite, simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, 5-parted, petals and sepals fused, petal tube elongate; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: Phlox divaricata and P. paniculata are the only two species of Polemoniaceae found in NYC.

 

Polygalaceae (milkwort family)

Herbs. Leaves mostly alternate, simple with smooth margins. Flowers strongly bilaterally symmetrical, sepals 5, the two lateral ones often petal-like, petals 3, the middle one often saucer-shaped with a fringed crest; ovary superior; stamens usually 8, joined at base; each flower accompanied by bracts; inflorescences branched to spike-like. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds, seeds often hairy, or with a fleshy attachment or coat. Notes: Polygala cruciata, P. lutea, P. sanguinea and P. verticillata are the four species of Polygalaceae remaining in NYC. All are uncommon or rare in the City. We have lost three others.

 

Polygonaceae (smartweed family)

Herbs, sometimes vines, nodes swollen, stipules form a sheath encircling stem at base of leaf stalk. Leaves alternate, simple, margins generally smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, usually very small, petals 2-6, fused at base, usually inconspicuous; ovary superior; base of flower often enlarged in fruit. Fruit small, nut-like, surrounded by old flower parts, often 3-angled, sometimes winged. Notes: Fagopyrum, Polygonella, Polygonum and Rumex are the genera of Polygonaceae found in NYC.

Polypodiaceae (polypody family)

Ferns (Filicopsida) Pteridophyte. Leaves simple to pinnate. Flowers: none. Fruit/seeds: none. Spore cases usually round, usually in lines or dots on the backs of leaves. Notes: Polypodium virginianum is the only species of Polypodiaceae in NYC.

 

Pontederiaceae (water-hyacinth family)

Aquatic herbs (Monocotyledons), leaf sheath enclosing stem. Leaves alternate, ranked along stem or in a rosette, stalks sometimes inflated, blades narrow to egg shaped with parallel veins curving upward and converging at the leaf tip. Flowers often bilaterally symmetrical, with six petals fused into a long tube; ovary superior; inflorescence of clusters at top of plant. Fruit dry, hollow, or nut-like. Notes: Pontederia cordata is the only species of Pontederiaceae in NYC.

 

Portulacaceae (purslane family)

Herbs, often succulent. Leaves opposite or alternate, simple, margins smooth. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals 4-6, sepals 2; ovary inferior or superior; stamens 4-6. Fruit dry, hollow. Notes: Claytonia virginiana and Portulaca oleracea are the only species of Portulacaceae found in NYC natural areas. Portulaca grandiflora is a showy garden plant that very rarely escapes from cultivation.

 

Potamogetonaceae (pondweed family)

Perennial, submerged, rooted, aquatic herbs (Monocotyledons); colonial from rhizomes, stems branching. Leaves alternate, veins parallel or midrib only, leaf base with a sheathing, tubular stipule in each axil. Flowers small, radially symmetrical, 4-parted, petals and sepals in one whorl of 4 altogether; inflorescence spikes often growing above water surface. Fruit floating, 1-seeded. Notes: Potamogeton is the only genus in Potamogetonaceae.

 

Primulaceae (primrose family)

Herbs. Leaves mostly opposite, sometimes whorled or alternate, simple (except Hottonia). Flowers radially symmetrical, usually 5-parted, petals fused at least at base; ovary superior. Fruit dry, hollow. Notes: Agalinis, Hottonia, Lysimachia, Samolus and Trientalis are the genera of Primulaceae found in NYC.

 

Pyrolaceae (shinleaf family)

Evergreen herbs, colonial from underground stems (ours); strongly dependent upon specialized mycorrhizal fungi. Leaves alternate, simple, persisting through winter. Flowers radially symmetrical, 5-parted, sepals sometimes fused at base, petals free; ovary superior; stamens 10. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release numerous tiny seeds that cannot develop without uniting with a fungus. Notes: Closely related to and sometimes included in Ericaceae. Chimaphila maculata and Pyrola rotundifolia are the two remaining species of Pyrolaceae in NYC. We have lost three other species. Both of these can be considered indicators of high quality forest understory habitats.

 

Ranunculaceae (buttercup family)

Herbs. Leaves mostly alternate, sometimes opposite, whorled or basal, often compound or divided; margins usually toothed. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals free or absent; sepals free, usually overlapping along edges; ovary superior; stamens mostly numerous, a few sometimes modified and petal-like. Fruit dry, 1-seeded to hollow. Notes: There are eight genera of Ranunculaceae in NYC.

 

Rhamnaceae (buckthorn family)

Shrubs. Leaves mostly alternate, simple. Flowers radially symmetrical, 4- parted, small, petals free, often narrow at base. Fruit fleshy or leathery. Notes: Ceanothus americanus, Rhamnus cathartica and R. frangula are the three species of Rhamnaceae found in NYC.

 

Rosaceae (Rose family)

Shrubs or herbs, usually with stipules that are sometimes fused to the leaf stalk. Leaves alternate, simple to compound, margins usually toothed. Flowers radially symmetrical, often showy, petals and sepals five, free, often accompanied by 5 sepal-like bracts, stamens usually numerous; flower base (receptacle) expanded into a hypanthium surrounding the ovary. Fruit fleshy or dry, often involving an enlargement of the hypanthium. Notes: There are about 17 genera of Rosaceae in NYC. The rose family includes many temperate ornamentals and fruit crops such as roses, apples, pears, blackberries, strawberries and peaches.

Rubiaceae (madder family)

Shrubs, herbs, vines, stipules between leaf stalk bases, often united across stem, sometimes leaf-like or forming a small tube above leaf base. Leaves opposite, each pair at right angles to those above and below, or sometimes in whorls, blade simple, margins usually smooth. Flowers mostly radially symmetrical, 4-5 parted, tubular usually with sepals fused at base; ovary inferior; stamens fused to petal tube; inflorescence usually of branched clusters, sometimes in crowded heads. Fruit fleshy or dry. Notes: There are five genera of Rubiaceae in NYC. Rubiaceae is one of the largest plant families worldwide with roughly 1500-1600 species, mostly tropical.

 

Rutaceae (rue family)

Trees and shrubs, sometimes thorny. Leaves alternate or opposite, stalks often winged, blade simple to pinnately compound, sprinkled with tiny, translucent dots containing aromatic oils. Flowers radially symmetrical, petals 2-10, free to partly fused; sepals 3-5 free or fused; ovary superior; stamens mostly 2-8. Fruit dry or fleshy. Notes: Phellodendron amurense, P. japonicum and Ptelea trifoliata are the only species of Rutaceae in NYC. Rutaceae includes citrus fruits and other commercially important plants.

Sapindaceae (soapberry family)

 

Sarraceniaceae (pitcher-plant family)

Carnivorous herbs. Leaves hollow, pitcher-shaped, traps for insects. Flowers radially symmetrical, large, 5 petals, 5 sepals, stamens numerous, solitary, nodding. Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release numerous minute seeds. Notes: Sarracenia purpurea is the only species of Sarraceniaceae in NYC.

 

Saururaceae (lizard’s tail family)

Perennial herbs, stems appearing jointed. Leaves alternate, spiraled, simple. Flowers small, no petals or sepals, stamens 6-8, densely crowded on a spike. Fruit dry, 1-seeded. Notes: Saururus cernuus is the only species of Saururaceae in NYC or the New World.

 

Saxifragaceae (saxifrage family)

Herbs. Leaves usually alternate. Flowers usually radially symmetrical, petals and sepals 4-5, sepals often lobes on floral base (hypanthium); ovary inferior or surrounded by hypanthium, often deeply lobed, lobes often beaked . Fruit dry, hollow, splitting open to release numerous seeds. Notes: Heuchera americana, Penthorum sedoides and Saxifraga virginiana are the species of Saxifragaceae remaining in NYC. At least three other species have been lost.

 

Scrophulariaceae (figwort family)

Mostly herbs. Leaves opposite, sometimes alternate, simple to pinnate. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, tubular, petal lobes 4-5, often 2-lipped, sepals 4-5, often fused; ovary superior; stamens 2-4; inflorescence of branched or unbranched clusters. Fruit usually dry, hollow, splitting open to release seeds. Notes: There are about 15 genera of Scrophulariaceae in NYC.

 

[Selaginellaceae (spikemoss family). Much like Lycopodiaceae in appearance but differing in its reproductive cycle. New York City has lost both species of Selaginella found here prior to 1980 (DeCandido 2000).]

 

Simaroubaceae (quassia family)

Trees and shrubs. Leaves alternate, mostly pinnate. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, petals and sepals 3-5, stamens 3-10, inflorescence branched or simple. Fruit ovary superior, dry, sometimes winged, occasionally fleshy. Notes: Ailanthus altissima is the only species of Simaroubaceae found in NYC.

 

Smilacaceae (catbrier family)

Vines (Monocotyledons), sometimes prickly, woody or herbaceous; base of leaf stalk expanded into a sheath, with a pair of tendrils arising from juncture of leaf stalk and sheath. Leaves alternate, blades fairly broad; major veins 3-7, palmate. Flowers sexes on separate plants (dioecious); radially symmetrical, small, 6 parted, petals free; ovary superior; inflorescence umbrella-shaped on a long stalk, in leaf axils. Fruit fleshy with 1-6 seeds, eaten by birds or other animals, which disperse the seeds. Notes: Smilax is the only genus of Smilacaceae in NYC or in the New World.

 

Solanaceae (nightshade family)

Herbs, vines, often hairy or prickly. Leaves alternate, simple, lobed, or pinnately compound. Flowers generally radially symmetrical, five parted, petals fused at least at the base; ovary superior; stamens often grouped closely together forming a central cone. Fruit usually fleshy, or dry and hollow. Notes: This family contains quite a number of important species. Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) and chilies (Capsicum annuum) are all food crops originating in the New World tropics. Eggplant (S. melongena) is originally from India or North Africa. Atropa belladonna, of Mediterranean origin, is the source of Atropine, a very toxic but important medicinal. Solanaceae are well known for producing alkaloid chemicals, many of which are toxic.

 

Sparganiaceae (bur-reed family)

Reed-like aquatic plants (Monocotyledons), leaves alternate, linear, spongy, emergent or floating. Flowers sexes separate on the same plant (monoecious), greenish, small, in dense round heads; male heads uppermost on flowering stems. Fruit dry, small, spongy outer layer, surrounded by persistent sepals. Notes: Sparganium is the only genus in this family.

 

Staphyleaceae (bladdernut family)

Shrubs (ours). Leaves opposite, 3-parted, or pinnate. Flowers radially symmetrical, small, 5-parted, sepals and petals separate, stamens alternating with petals; inflorescence drooping. Fruit various, that of Staphylea dry, inflated, 3-parted. Notes: Staphylea trifolia is the only species of Staphyleaceae in NYC.

 

Taxaceae (yew family)

Evergreen trees or shrubs (Gymnosperms). Leaves needle-like linear, flat. Flowers none. Fruit none. Sexes on separate plants (dioecious). Female cones bearing solitary seeds, usually covered by a fleshy coating (aril) attractive to birds; male cones small. Notes: Taxus is the only genus in this family.

 

Taxodiaceae (bald cypress family)

Deciduous conifers (Gymnosperms; no flowers or fruit, seed plants), twigs of two types, some deciduous with leaves in autumn, the others bearing buds. Leaves needle-like. Flowers none. Fruit none. Female cones of spirally arranged, woody scales; male cones small. Notes: Taxodium distichum is the only species of Taxodiaceae found in NYC.

 

Tiliaceae (linden family)

Trees, stipules present, deciduous. Leaves alternate, simple, margin often toothed or lobed, often asymmetric, veins usually palmate, at least at base of leaf. Flowers radially symmetrical, fragrant, usually small, green, white or yellow, petals 4, sometimes large, free or partly fused, margins overlapping; sepals 4; ovary superior; stamens numerous. Fruit usually dry. Notes: Tilia americana is the only species of Tiliaceae naturally occurring in NYC or northeastern N. America.

 

Typhaceae (cat-tail family)

Aquatic herbs (Monocotyledons), with a rather coarse, grass-like appearance, colonial from underground stems (rhizomes), tall. Leaves alternate, all basal, base sheathing stem, blade linear, flat. Flowers minute, densely packed on a cylindrical, spike-like head, male part of spike above female, at top of an unbranched flower stalk, female spike turning dark brown and appearing fuzzy at maturity as seeds become free of spike axis. Fruit dry, 1-seeded, very small, plumed, wind dispersed. Notes: Typha latifolia and T. angustifolia are the two species of Typhaceae in NYC.

Ulmaceae (elm family)

Trees and shrubs, stipules protecting leaf buds, deciduous as leaves unfold. Leaves alternate, usually in one plane along opposite sides of the stem, simple, often unequal at the base with toothed margins. Flowers radially symmetrical, often small, inconspicuous, petals none, sepals usually 5; ovary superior; flowers solitary or in axillary clusters. Fruit dry and winged, or fleshy. Notes: Celtis and Ulmus are the two genera of Ulmaceae in NYC.

 

Urticaceae (nettle family)

Herbs or shrubs often with stinging hairs, stipules present. Leaves alternate or opposite, simple, veins often palmate at base, margins often toothed. Flowers radially symmetrical, often greenish, sexes separate, small, inconspicuous, no petals, sepals 3-5; ovary superior, stamens 3-5, opposite sepals; inflorescence often head-like, spike-like or branched clusters. Fruit dry, 1-seeded (achene), often enclosed in old sepals. Notes: Boehmeria, Laportea, Pilea and Urtica are the genera of Urticaceae found in NYC.

 

Verbenaceae (vervain family)

Herbs, young stems often 4-angled. Leaves opposite, usually simple. Flowers mostly bilaterally symmetrical, tubular, petal lobes 4-5, occasionally 2-lipped; calyx 5-lobed, often persistent in fruit; ovary superior; stamens 4. Fruit usually dry, and separating into 4 one-seeded parts, sometimes fleshy. Notes: Phryma and Verbena are the two genera of Verbenaceae found in NYC.

Violaceae (violet family)

Herbs (ours), stipules present. Leaves usually alternate, sometimes opposite, simple. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, petals 5, free, one often larger and with a cone-shaped appendage at base; sepals 5, free, persistent; ovary superior; stamens 5, tightly clustered around ovary. Fruit dry (ours) and hollow, splitting into 3 parts to release numerous seeds. Notes: Viola is the only genus of Violaceae in NYC.

 

Vitaceae (grape family)

Woody vines (lianas) with tendrils opposite leaves, stipules present. Leaves alternate, simple or compound, often palmately lobed or veined. Flowers radially symmetrical, very small, 4-5 parted, petals small, sepals very small to none; ovary superior; stamens 4-5, opposite petals; inflorescence of branched clusters opposite leaves, replacing a tendril. Fruit fleshy with several seeds. Notes: Ampelopsis, Parthenocissus and Vitis are the genera of Vitaceae found in NYC.

 

Xyridaceae (yellow-eyed grass family)

Low herbs (Monocotyledons). Leaves basal, grass-like. Flowers yellow, 3-parted, slightly bilaterally symmetrical, in axils of small, overlapping bracts in a head-like arrangement. Fruit dry-1-seeded. Notes: Xyris torta is the only species of Xyridaceae in NYC.

 

 

Zosteraceae (eel-grass family)

Submerged marine herbs (Monocotyledons). Leaves alternate, grass-like. Flowers inconspicuous a small spike above a bract, sexes separate on the same plant (monoecious). Fruit small, 1-seeded. Notes: Zostera marina is the only species of Zosteraceae in northeastern N. America. It may still exist in NYC.

 

Zygophyllaceae (creosote-bush family)