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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 23 | Cyperaceae

13. ISOLEPIS R. Brown, Prodr. 221. 1810.

[Greek, isos, equal, similar, and lepis, a scale]

S. Galen Smith

Scirpus Linnaeus sect. Isolepis (R. Brown) Grisebach

Herbs, annual or perennial, cespitose, rhizomatous or not, smooth, glabrous. Culms terete. Leaves all basal; sheaths green to stramineous, sometimes reddish proximally; ligules absent; blades rudimentary to exceeding culms. Inflorescences terminal, sometimes pseudolateral, capitate or solitary spikelet; spikelets 1–3(–15); involucral bracts 1(–2), spreading to erect, like foliage leaf blades. Spikelets: scales 8–25, spirally arranged, each subtending flower. Flowers bisexual; perianth absent; stamens 1–3; styles linear, 2–3-fid, base persistent, sometimes slightly enlarged. Achenes biconvex or trigonous, papillose or longitudinally ribbed.

Species 69 (4 in the flora): worldwide in cool-tropical and temperate regions, especially Africa and Australia.

Isolepis is difficult to delimit on a worldwide basis and has been included in Scirpus in the broad sense. Data derived from embryologic, genetic, and other studies led in recent years to the acceptance of Isolepis as a distinct genus (J. J. Bruhl 1995; P. Goetghebeur 1998; A. M. Muasya et al. 2001).


Muasya, A. M. 1998. Systematics of the Genus Isolepis R. Br. (Cyperaceae). Ph.D. thesis. University of Reading. Muasya, A. M. and D. A. Simpson. 2002. A monograph of the genus Isolepis R. Br. (Cyperaceae). Kew Bull. 57: 257–362. Muasya, A. M., D. A. Simpson, M. W. Chase, and A. Culham. 2001. A phylogeny of Isolepis (Cyperaceae) inferred using plastid rbcL and trnL-F sequence data. Syst. Bot. 26: 342–353.

1 Spikelets with scales markedly gibbous, often clasping shed achenes, colorless to stramineous, or orangish, or greenish; achenes acutely equilaterally trigonous; leaf sheaths green to stramineous or brown.   (2)
+ Spikelets with scales neither gibbous nor clasping shed achenes, usually at least partly orange- to red-brown or blackish; achenes compressed-trigonous or thickly plano-convex; leaf sheaths usually reddish proximally.   (3)
2 (1) Scales from middle of spikelet 1.8–2 mm, with awns 0.2–0.5 mm; achenes 1–1.5 mm.   1 Isolepis carinata
+ Scales from middle of spikelet 1–1.2 mm, with mucros to 0.1 mm; achenes 0.7–0.9 mm.   2 Isolepis pseudosetacea
3 (1) Achenes papillose, not ribbed; culms, leaves, and involucral bracts not orange-punctate or sheaths sparsely so.   3 Isolepis cernua
+ Achenes not papillose, prominently longitudinally ribbed at 10X and minutely transversely ridged at 20–30X; culms, leaves, and involucral bracts orange-punctate at 10– 15X.   4 Isolepis setacea

Lower Taxa


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