Rosaceae (rose family)
Potter, Daniel Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, California.
- Traditional classification
- Phylogenetic analyses
- New infrafamilial classification
- Ecology and biogeography
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Nonbotanists are often surprised to learn that the species that yield many of the most familiar and important temperate fruit crop plants, including apples, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries, are all classified by botanists in the same plant family, and that it is also the family to which some of the most beloved species of ornamental plants, namely, roses, belong and give their name. Many other plants of economic and ecological significance are also classified in this family (see table). Despite the apparent diversity represented by this array of species, the rose family has been recognized as a natural group since at least the late eighteenth century, when the botanical name Rosaceae was first applied to it. Members of Rosaceae share a distinctive floral feature—the presence of a hypanthium, a floral disk or cup formed from the fused bases of the sepals, petals, and stamens, which is sometimes fused to the ovary. The hypanthium is not a unique feature of Rosaceae, but its presence in combination with other characteristics, such as the presence of numerous (15 or more) stamens in the flowers of most species and the presence of cyanogenic glycosides (defensive chemicals that release hydrogen cyanide when parts of the plant are crushed) in many, has facilitated the long-standing recognition of this family. Nonetheless, as is inevitable with such a large and diverse group, modifications to both the membership of the family and its subdivision into smaller taxonomic groups (subfamilies, tribes, and subtribes) have occurred over the last 200 years as new evidence has come to light. In its current circumscription, the family includes about 90 genera, which together comprise 2000–3000 species.
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