KAMAL A. MALIK
Department of Botany, University of Karachi, Karachi-75270.
Mostly monoecious, more rarely hermaphroditic or dioecious trees, shrubs and vines. Underground perennial rhizome sometimes present or more commonly the trunk above ground, erect or climbing. Stem usually single or bearing side branches, rarely forked or profusely branched, smooth, ringed or covered with remains of petiole bases and dead leaves. Leaves pinnately or palmately ribbed or divided, sometimes very large; blades mostly folded, with numerous longitudinal nerves splitting induplicately or reduplicately, sometimes sharp at the apex and prickly on the margins or midrib; petiole base persisting or not and often spreading about or sheathing the trunk, in some genera much expanded and basally enveloping terminal bud and then forming a “crownshaft”. Inflorescence usually paniculate, enclosed by one or more bracts in bud condition. Bracts coriaceous or membranous, sometimes sheathing the lateral branches of the inflorescence; bracteoles sometimes connate below the flowers. Flowers small, actinomorphic, usually sessile, sometimes subsessile or pedicelled. Perianth of 6 segments, biseriate or rarely uniseriate, calyx and corolla usually 3-lobed, free or united; sepals generally imbricate or open in bud; petals generally valvate in the male and imbricate in the female flower. Stamens usually 6, sometimes 3, 9 or numerous; anthers 2-celled, dehiscing by vertical slits; filaments distinct, usually short. Carpels usually (1-)3(-more), distinct or variously united, rudimentary or absent in male flowers; ovary superior, 1-3-loculed or rarely 4-10-loculed, having a single ovule in each locule; ovule basal, axile or pendulous. Fruit usually a berry or drupe, epicarp smooth, tubercled, prickly or scaly, mesocarp often fibrous, endocarp often present, thick and woody. Seeds with a small embryo and a large homogeneous or ruminate endosperm.
A large family of c. 200-210 genera and about 2,800 species, mainly in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world; represented in Pakistan by 16 genera and 18 species of which only two genera and three species are wild.
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to Late Harold E. Moore Jr. (L.H. Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, Ithaca) and Dr. John Dransfield (Royle Botanic Gardens, Kew) for kindly going through the manuscript and offering suggestions for its improvement. The financial assistance received from the United States Department of Agriculture under P.L. 480 with the coordination of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, is thankfully acknowledged.