Plant Families

Why do we have family names?

The Science Background: Naming a Plant

Family names are a way that plants of similar characteristics can be grouped together by taxonomists. The major considerations are the morphology (shape) of flowers and leaves and genetics. Occasionally plants are moved from one family to another when more information becomes available. All plants in the Malvaceae (Hibiscus) family have stamens fused to the pistils. A defining characteristic of the Lamiaceae<(mint) family is square stems with flowers in racemes (a spike with many flowers). Most family names end in “aceae”. Family names are capitalized, but not placed in italics. Wikipedia contains good articles about each of the plant families.

The Plants in the Discovery Garden

Of the seventeen plant species in the Discovery Garden, there are fifteen families represented. Here is a chart of the plants with a partial taxonomy for each, from the scientific name to the family. Naturally, common names are included.

Partial Taxonomy of Plants in the Discovery Garden, Family through Species

Family Common Name Scientific Name
Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis family) Society Garlic Tulbaghia violacea
Apocynaceae (Dogbane family includes oleander, periwinkle, mandivilla, and plumeria.) Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa
Cactaceae (cactus family) Prickly Pear Opuntia ellisiana
Fabaceae (Legume, pea, or bean family. The Bluebonnet is in this family.) Texas Mountain Laurel Sophora secundiflora
Fagaceae (beech tree family) Live Oak Quercus virginiana
Lamiaceae (mint & many herbs are in this family) Salvia Salvia coccinea
Lamiaceae Beauty Berry Callicarpa americana
Lamiaceae Vitex Vitex agnus-castus
Lythraceae (Crape myrtle is in this family.) Pomegranate Punica granatum
Malvaceae (Hibiscus and other well-know plants in this family are okra, cotton, and coco.) Texas Star Hibiscus Hibiscus coccineus
Plantaginaceae, the plantain family Firecracker Plant Russelia equisetiformis
Plumbaginaceae Plumbago Plumbago auriculata
Poaceae (true grasses) Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia capillaris
Rosaceae (rose, includes many fruit trees) Flowering Quince Chaenomeles speciosa
Rubiaceae (coffee family) Firebush Hamelia patens
Verbenaceae (verbena family) Lantana Lantana camara
Xanthorrhoeaceae (Aloes and daylilies are in this family.) Flax Lily Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’
I used Tropicos to find the family name of each of the plants.
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