Commelina plants

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Commelina plants
Tradescantia crassifolia

Tradescantia crassifolia

Subdivision : Seed plants (Spermatophytina)
Class : Bedecktsamer (Magnoliopsida)
Order : Commelina-like (Commelinales)
Family : Commelina plants
Scientific name
Mirb., Nom. cons.

The Commelina plants (Commelinaceae) are a family in the order of the Commelina-like (Commelinales) within the flowering plants (Magnoliopsida). They are mainly found in the subtropics and tropics . Some species are neophytes in many areas of the world . Many taxa in this family are used as ornamental plants , especially known as houseplants in temperate latitudes .

Description and ecology

Illustration by Streptolirion volubile , from Transaction Linnean Society, 1846

Appearance and leaves

They are rarely annual (for example all Tinantia species) or mostly evergreen, perennial herbaceous to succulent plants that sometimes become lignified at the base. Species in arid areas form rhizomes or tubers as persistence organs. They grow independently upright, creeping, hanging or climbing (for example Palisota thollonii ) and a few species as epiphytes (for example both Cochliostema species and Belosynapsis vivipara ). The young stems often break easily at the most thickened nodes ( Nodien ).

In almost all Commelinaceae, needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals ( raphids ) are present in rows ("raphid canals") - they are only missing in Cartonema . Glandular microhairs are present in all Commelinoideae - but they are absent in all Cartonematoideae (an important feature to separate the two subfamilies).

Zygomorphic flower of Commelina communis
Radially symmetrical flower of Tradescantia zebrina
Tribus Tradescantieae Subtribus Palisotinae: Fruit clusters of Palisota barteri with berries

The arranged and alternate spiral or two lines distributed in a basal rosette or the stem leaves are pedunculated or sessile and have a sheath. Often the leaf sheath partially envelops the stem until their ends touch. The leaves are often more or less fleshy or herbaceous. The simple leaf blade is parallelnervig and entire. Around the stoma there are usually four or six, rarely two, side cells arranged very characteristically.

Inflorescences, flowers and pollination

The flowers are seldom single, but mostly in large numbers in unbranched or branched inflorescences , which are composed of cymes . Sometimes large bracts are present.

The mostly hermaphrodite, rarely unisexual flowers are threefold and radial symmetry to strongly zygomorphic . There are some monoecious ( monoecious ) and dioecious ( dioecious ) separate-sex species. The two circles, each with three non-identical bracts, are divided into sepals and petals. The three sepals are usually free or rarely fused at their base. The mostly three, sometimes nailed, petals are often free or sometimes fused with tubes in the central area. Sometimes a petal is colored differently or more or less strongly reduced until only two petals are visible. The petals can be white, blue to purple or rarely yellow (but in all Cartonematoideae). There are two circles with three free stamens each. Either all stamens are fertile or only two to three or rarely only one, then staminodes are present. The stamens are bald or often have conspicuous hairs. The anthers usually open with a longitudinal slit and sometimes have appendages. The mostly sulcate, two-celled pollen grains usually have an aperture or less often two to four. The three carpels are a top permanent ovary fused with one to several to many ascending (1 to 50) ovules per ovary chamber. The simple stylus ends in a small or enlarged scar.

The pollination occurs autogamically or entomophilous . No nectar is produced, but many species have a very special attraction mechanism: Two different types of stamens are formed. In addition to the fertile stamens, there are light yellow, so-called "fodder stamens", which attract the pollinators by producing small pollen that these insects eat as food serve. In some species, special hairs are also formed on the stamens that serve as food for the pollinators.

Fruits, seeds and seedlings

Usually two- to three-fold, mostly dry, loculicidal capsule fruits are formed; rarely they are fleshy and berry-like ( Pollia ). Sometimes berries ( palisota ) are formed. The fruits contain few seeds. The large seeds are starchy and have a chlorophyll-free embryo .

It is usually one cotyledon , but sometimes there are two. A hypocotyl internode is often present, sometimes long, or absent, for example in cyanotis .

Chromosome sets and ingredients

The basic chromosome numbers are different: usually x = 6 to 16, but x = 4 to 29 are possible. Depending on the taxon, ingredients can include, for example, cyanidin , pro- anthocyanidins , alkaloids and, in the case of Cyanotis, saponins .


Tribus Commelineae: Commelina erecta
Tribus Commelineae: Murdannia edulis
Tribus Commelineae: Pollia japonica
Tribe Tradescantieae Subtribus Coleotrypinae: Coleotrype natalensis
Tribus Tradescantieae Subtribus Cyanotinae: Cyanotis somalensis is a semi-succulent species from East Africa and can be recognized by its small, longitudinally folded, hairy leaves
Tribus Tradescantieae Subtribus Dichorisandrinae: Habitus of Cochliostema velutinum
Tribe Tradescantieae Subtribus Dichorisandrinae: Dichorisandra thyrsiflora
Tribus Tradescantieae Subtribus Palisotinae: Palisota pynaertii cultivar 'Elizabethae'
Tribe Tradescantieae Subtribus Thyrsantheminae: inflorescence of Tinantia erecta
Tribus Tradescantieae Subtribus Tradescantiinae: Callisia warszewicziana , a succulent species
Subfamily Cartonematoideae tribe Cartonemateae: Illustration of Cartonema spicatum

The Commelinaceae family was established in 1804 by Charles François Brisseau de Mirbel in Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, des plantes , Volume 8, p. 177. The type genus is Commelina L. The botanical genus name Commelina honors the Dutch botanist Jan Commelijn (1629–1692) and his nephew Caspar Commelijn (approx. 1667–1731). The taxa of the earlier families Cartonemataceae Pichon , Ephemeraceae, and Tradescantiaceae Salisb. belong today to the family of the Commelina plants (Commelinaceae).

The Commelinaceae family is divided into two subfamilies , each with two tribes and contains around 40 genera with around 652 species (as of July 2009):

  • Subfamily Commelinoideae Eaton : There are always glandular microhairs and raphids. It contains two tribes with about 38 genera and about 640 species:
    • Tribus Commelineae (Meisner) Faden & D.Hunt : It contains about 13 genera, which mainly occur in the Paleotropic :
      • Aneilema R.Br. : The 60 to 65 species are mainly found in Africa, but two species ( Aneilema brasiliense and Aneilema umbrosum ) are also found in the New World. This also includes:
      • Anthericopsis Engl .: It contains only one species:
      • Buforrestia C.B.Clarke : Of the only three species, two are found in tropical Africa and one ( Buforrestia candolleana ) in the South American states of French Guiana and Suriname .
      • Day flowers ( Commelina L. ): (Syn .: Erxlebia Medik. , Hedwigia Medik. , Lechea Lour. , Ananthopus Raf. , Allotria Raf. , Dirtea Raf. , Eudipetala Raf. , Larnalles Raf. , Nephralles Raf. , Ovidia Raf. , Allosperma . Raf , Isanthina .. Rchb ex Steud , Heterocarpus Wight , Disecocarpus . Hassk , Omphalotheca . Hassk , Phaeosphaerion . Hassk , Spathodithyros . Hassk , Trithyrocarpus . Hassk , Athyrocarpus .. Schltdl ex Benth . nom illeg. Commelinopsis Pichon ): The approximately 170 species thrive mainly in the tropics and subtropics almost worldwide. There are several species suitable as house plants .
      • Dictyospermum Wight : The four to five species are common in tropical Asia.
      • Floscopa Lour. (Syn .: Dithyrocarpus Kunth ): It is pantropically distributed with about 20 species.
      • Murdannia Royle (Syn .: Aphylax Salisb. Nom. Nud., Ditelesia Raf. , Talipulia Raf. , Dilasia Raf. , Streptylis Raf. , Dichoespermum Wight , Prionostachys Hassk. , Baoulia A. Chev. ): The approximately 50 species are in the tropics and subtropics mainly in Asia.
      • Pollia Thunb. (Syn .: Aclisia E.Mey. Ex C.Presl , Lamprocarpus Blume ): The approximately 20 species are distributed in tropical Africa, on islands in the western Indian Ocean, in tropical to subtropical Asia and on islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. One species ( Pollia americana ) occurs in Panama .
      • Polyspatha Benth. : The three types are common in tropical Africa. Including:
      • Pseudoparis H.Perrier : The three or so species are common in Madagascar.
      • Rhopalephora Hasskarl (Syn .: Piletocarpus Hassk. ): Of the four or so species, one ( Rhopalephora rugosa ) occurs in Madagascar and the others are distributed from southern Asia to the Pacific islands.
      • Stanfieldiella Brenan : The four species are common in tropical Africa.
      • Tricarpelema J.K.Morton : Of the seven types is a ( Tricarpelema africanum ) in tropical west-central Africa. The others are distributed from the Himalayas via Tibet , Myanmar and Vietnam to western and central Malesia .
    • Tribus Tradescantieae (Meisner) Faden & D.Hunt : It contains seven subtribes with about 25 (up to 34) genera and about 285 species:
      • Subtribus Coleotrypinae Faden & D.Hunt : It contains about three genera and is monophyletic:
        • Amischotolype Hassk. : The 20 or so species are common in tropical Africa and Asia.
        • Coleotrype C.B.Clarke : The spread about nine species in South East Africa and Madagascar.
        • Porandra D.H. Hong : The three types are common in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
      • Subtribus Cyanotinae (Pichon) Faden & D.Hunt : It contains only two genera and is monophyletic:
        • Cyanotis D.Don (including Amischophacelus R.Rao & Kamm. ): The approximately 50 species are distributed in tropical and subtropical Africa and from Asia to northern Australia.
        • Belosynapsis Hassk. : The three or so species are common in southern Asia.
      • Subtribus Dichorisandrinae (Pichon) Faden & D.Hunt : It contains about five genera and is polyphyletic:
        • Snail thread ( Cochliostema Lem. ): There are only two Neotropical species. Including:
        • Dichorisandra J.C.Mikan : the approximately 38 species have spread from Central America to the tropical South America.
        • Geogenanthus Ule : The three or so species are common in tropical South America.
        • Plowmanianthus Faden & CRHardy : Of the five species, two are common in Panama and three in the Amazon basin.
        • Siderasis Raf. : It contains only one type:
      • Subtribus Palisotinae Faden & D.Hunt : It contains only one genus:
        • Palisota Reichb. : The approximately 25 species are common in tropical Africa.
      • Subtribus Streptoliriinae Faden & D.Hunt : It contains about three genera:
        • Aetheolirion Forman : it contains only one species:
        • Spatholirion Ridl. : The three or so species are common in China, Thailand and Vietnam.
        • Streptolirion Edgew. : It contains only one type:
          • Streptolirion volubile Edgew. : It thrives in Bhutan, China, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Sikkim, Thailand and Vietnam.
      • Subtribus Thyrsantheminae Faden & D.Hunt : It contains about five genera in the New World and is polyphyletic:
        • Gibasoides D.R. Hunt : It only contains one species:
        • Matudanthus D.R.Hunt : it contains only one type:
          • Matudanthus nanus (M.Martens & Galeotti) DRHunt : It occurs only in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
        • Thyrsanthemum Pichon : The three or so species are common in Mexico.
        • Tinantia Scheidw. (Syn .: Pogomesia Raf. , Commelinantia Tharp ): There are about 14 neotropical species.
        • Weldenia Schult. f. : It contains only one type:
      • Subtribus Tradescantiinae Rohw. : It contains about six genera in the New World and is monophyletic:
        • Gibasis Raf. : There are about eleven Neotropical species.
        • Elasis D.R. Hunt : It contains only one species:
        • Callisia Loefl. (Syn .: Wachendorfia Loefl. , Hapalanthus Jacq. , Aploleia Raf. , Leiandra Raf. , Phyodina Raf. , Spironema Lindl. Nom. Illeg., Leptorhoeo C.B.Clarke , Cuthbertia Small , Tradescantella Small , Rectanthera O.Deg. , Leptocallisia ( Benth. & Hook.f.) Pichon , Hadrodemas H.E. Moore ): The approximately 20 species are common in the New World. There are a few species that are suitable as house plants.
        • Tripogandra Raf. (Syn .: Descantaria Schltdl. , Donnellia C.B. Clarke ex Donn.Sm. nom. Illeg., Neodonnellia Rose ): The approximately 22 species are common in the Neotropic.
        • Sauvallea C. Wright : It contains only one species:
        • Three-masted flowers ( Tradescantia L. , Syn .: Ephemerum Mill. , Zanonia Plum. Ex Cramer , Etheosanthes Raf. , Heminema Raf. , Sarcoperis Raf. , Tropitria Raf. , Heterachthia Kunze , Gonatandra Schltdl. , Disgrega Hassk. , Knowlesia Hassk. , Skofitzia Hassk. & Kanitz , Campelia Rich. , Cymbispatha Pichon , Mandonia Hassk. Nom. Illeg., Neomandonia Hutch. , Neotreleasea Rose , Rhoeo Hance , Separotheca Waterf. , Setcreasea Schumann & Sydow , Treleasea Rose nom. Illeg., Zebrina Schnizl. ): The approximately 70 species are mainly found in the Neotropic. Many species suitable as house plants, with differently colored leaves.
  • Subfamily Cartonematoideae GCTucker : The radial symmetry flowers have yellow petals. There are no glandular microhairs. It contains two tribes, each with one genus and a total of about twelve species:

The Commelinaceae family is monophyletic according to a lot of molecular genetic data . According to Evans et al. 2003 and Burns et al. 2011 results in the following cladogram :

 Commelinaceae family 
 Subfamily Cartonematoideae 
 Tribe Cartonemateae 




 Subfamily Commelinoideae 
 Tribe Tradescantieae 









Tradescantia + Gibasis


Callisia + Tripogandra

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 Tribus Commelineae 







Aneilema + Rhopalephora

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Many species of the Commelinaceae family are used as ornamental plants in tropical to subtropical parks and gardens. In the temperate latitudes, some species and their varieties are especially used as indoor plants .


Individual evidence

  1. Commelinaceae at Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, accessed November 4, 2014.
  2. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names . Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-946292-10-4 , p. 237, DOI: 10.3372 / epolist2016
  3. ^ A b Commelinaceae in Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.
  4. Timothy M. Evans, Robert B. Faden, Michael G. Simpson, Kenneth J. Sytsma: Phylogenetic relationships in the Commelinaceae: I. A cladistic analysis of rbcL sequences and morphology. In: Systematic Botany , Volume 25, Issue 4, 2000, pp. 668-691: PDF. ( Memento of the original from August 30, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ A b Jean H. Burns, Robert B. Faden, Scott J. Steppan: Phylogenetic Studies in the Commelinaceae Subfamily Commelinoideae Inferred from Nuclear Ribosomal and Chloroplast DNA Sequences . In: Systematic Botany . Volume 36, No. 2 , June 1, 2011, p. 268-276 , doi : 10.1600 / 036364411X569471 (English, [1] ).
  6. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Rafaël Govaerts (Ed.): Commelinaceae. In: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) - The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  7. DJ Wade, TM Evans & RB Faden: Subtribal relationships in tribe Tradescantieae (Commelinaceae) based on molecular and morphological data. In: Proceedings for the Third International Symposium on Monocots , Ontario, California, 2006, pp. 520-526.
  8. Christopher R. Hardyabd, Robert B. Faden: Plowmanianthus, a New Genus of Commelinaceae with Five New Species from Tropical America. In: Systematic Botany , Volume 29, Issue 2, 2004, pp. 316-333.
  9. a b Kate L. Hertweck, J. Chris Pires: Systematics and Evolution of Inflorescence Structure in the Tradescantia Alliance (Commelinaceae). In: Systematic Botany , Volume 39, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 105-116. DOI: 10.1600 / 036364414X677991
  10. Rosalina Berazaín Iturralde: Actualización de la lista de los géneros endémicos cubanos espermatófitos. In: Revista del Jardín Botánico Nacional , Tomo 29, 2008, pp. 3–10. Full text PDF.
  11. Timothy M. Evans, Kenneth J. Sytsma, Robert B. Faden, Thomas J. Givnish: Phylogenetic relationships in the Commelinaceae: II. A cladistic analysis of rbcL sequences and morphology , in Systematic Botany , Volume 28, Issue 2, 2003, Pp. 270-292. DOI: 10.1043 / 0363-6445-28.2.270

Web links

Commons : Commelinagewächse (Commelinaceae)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files