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Araceae Juss.

天南星科

Description from Flora of China

Herbs, perennial, of diverse habit including climbers, floating aquatics, helophytes, pachycaul shrubs, and geophytes. Underground stems absent, or present and then rhizomatous or tuberous; aerial stems variously produced or not, often evergreen; bulbils for vegetative reproduction sometimes produced, e.g., on leaf or on special shoots. Leaves alternate or apparently basal, usually petiolate with sheathing bases, often subtended by prophylls and/or cataphylls; leaf blade various, e.g., linear, simple (base often cordate to sagittate), sometimes peltate or variously compound (e.g., pinnate, radiate, pedate, or decompound), or still more complex and "dracontioid" (elaborate forms of sagittate, hastate, or trisect leaves in which anterior and posterior divisions are highly dissected and subdivided). Inflorescences (sometimes precocious) subtended by membranous prophylls and/or cataphylls, consisting of a spadix subtended by a spathe. Spathe commonly with tubelike base (margins fused or not) persistent or with deciduous blade. Spadix bearing bisexual or unisexual flowers, in latter case plants paradioecious or monoecious (spadix female proximally and male distally), very rarely with morphologically bisexual but functionally unisexual flowers. Bisexual flowers: tepals 0, 4, or 6; stamens 4-6(-22), filaments free, anthers with 2 thecae; ovary usually 3-loculed or more loculed or 1-loculed (pseudomonomerous). Unisexual flowers almost always naked [rare exceptions (only 3 genera, these all from Africa, including cultivated Zamioculcas with tepalate flowers)]: male represented by 1-6 (usually 2-4) free stamens or 2-12 (rarely up to 32) stamens connate into a synandrium overtopped by a common synconnective, anthers often subsessile, usually dehiscing apically by pores or slits (straight or horseshoe-shaped); female flowers consisting of a single ovary (sometimes associated with a sterile staminode), commonly 1-loculed (sometimes with 3 or 4 locules), ovules 1 to many per locule, placentation parietal, axile, basal, or apical. Pollen grains aperturate or inaperturate, exine of various ornamentation. Most genera (Aroideae s.l.) with inaperturate pollen grains without sporopollenin. Sterile (neuter) flowers derived from male or female flowers sometimes present at apex or base of female and/or male zones of spadix. Spadix sometimes with a sterile, terminal appendix. Fruit usually a head of 1- to several-seeded indehiscent separate berries, or dehiscent via shedding stylar plate (Monstereae excluding Amydrium) or syncarpous and apically dehiscent (Cryptocoryne) or syncarpous and indehiscent (Syngonium, cultivated), commonly red, green, white, or yellow, rarely blue.

There is an abundance of Araceae in the S and SW provinces of China. The NE and NW regions are poorer. About 50% of Araceae species in China are medicinal plants; for example, Arisaema heterophyllum, Pinellia pedatisecta, and P. ternata have been used since ancient times. Tubers of Amorphophallus and Colocasia are used for food or in industry for starch. Pistia is very valuable as feed for pigs and sometimes is cultivated as an ornamental plant in aquatic gardens.

The following genera are not native to China but are cultivated there: Aglaonema Schott, Anthurium Schott, Caladium Ventenat, Dieffenbachia Schott, Monstera Adanson, Philodendron Schott, Spathiphyllum Schott, Syngonium Schott, Zamioculcas Schott, and Zantedeschia Sprengel.

Li Hen. 1979. Araceae (excluding Acorus). In: Wu Cheng yih & Li Hen, eds., Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 13(2): 1-242.

About 110 genera and more than 3,500 species: all parts of the world except polar regions and the driest deserts, chiefly in tropical and subtropical regions; 26 genera and 181 species (72 endemic) in China.

(Authors: Li Heng (李恒 Li Hen)[4], Zhu Guanghua (朱光华) [5]; Peter C. Boyce [6], Jin Murata[7], Wilbert L. A. Hetterscheid [8], Josef Bogner [9], Niels Jacobsen[10])

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