Apiaceae Lindl.

This family is accepted.


Klitgård, B.B. (2009). Neotropical Apiaceae.


Usually herbs, less often shrubs, creepers, tuberous or cushion forming plants, rarely trees. Leaves alternate , rarely opposite, simple or compound , often large, the petiole commonly forming a basal sheath , leaf blades often pinnately or palmately dissected ; stipules rarely present. Inflorescences axillary or terminal , usually in umbels, less commonly in compound or simple heads; involucre (= congested bracts) often present at the base of the umbels, involucels (= congested bracteoles) common below the umbellets. Flowers often hermaphroditic, if unisexual then often andromonecious, 5- merous , actinomorphic ; sepals often reduced (though prominent in Eryngium), frequently only apical teeth of sepals apparent; petals usually white, yellow, less commonly blue or reddish purple; stamens 5, alternipetalous; ovary syncarpous, hypogynous, the 2 carpels with 2 locules and the 2 styles may be swollen into a nectar secreting stylopodium. Fruit a dry schizocarp , usually compressed or flattened, less often globose or cylindrical, mericarps 2, with 5-10 ribs, these obscure , threadlike or promimently extended into wings or prickles ; seeds usually 2 (1 per mericarp ), rarely 1, the surface flat, variously concave or grooved.

Distribution in the Neotropics

Worldwide the Apiaceae comprise 428-434 genera and 3,500-3,780 species. Of these about 50 genera and 500 species occur in the Neotropics. Representation of genera:

  • Arracacia Bancr.: (30-55 species) Mexico and Central America the northern Andes to Bolivia.
  • Azorella Lam.: (20-26 species) Costa Rica along the Andes to temperate South America.
  • Bolax  Comm. ex Juss.: (4-5 species) temperate South America.
  • Bowlesia Ruiz & Pav.: (15 species) in temperate to tropical South America.
  • Centella L.: (20 species) mostly South Africa, but C. asiatica and its closest relatives are pantropical.
  • Coaxana J.M.Coult. & Rose: (2 species) Mexico.
  • Conium L.: (3 species) temperate Eurasia. Conium maculatum L. widely naturalized.
  • Coriandrum L.: (3 species) SW Asia. Coriandrum sativum L. widely cultivated.
  • Cotopaxia Mathias & Constance: (1 species) endemic to the high Andes of Ecuador.
  • Coulterophytum B.L.Rob.: (5 species) Mexico.
  • Dahliaphyllum Constance & Breedlove: (1 species) Mexico.
  • Daucus L.: (c. 20 species) almost worldwide, centrered in the Mediterranean, few species in temperate and tropical America.
  • Donnellsmithia J.M.Coult. & Rose: (15-20 species) Mexico and Central America.
  • Enantiophylla J.M.Coult. & Rose: (1 species) Central America.
  • Eremocharis Phil.: (9 species) Chile and Peru.
  • Eryngium L.: (c. 250 species) temperate and tropical worldwide, except Africa.
  • Foeniculum Mill.: (4-5 species) temperate Old world, but F. vulgare L. (fennel) cultivated worldwide.
  • Gymnophyton Clos: (6 species) Andes of Chile and Argentina.
  • Huanaca Cav.: (4 species) southern Argentina and Chile.
  • Klotzschia Cham.: (3 species) Brazil.
  • Lilaeopsis Greene: (14-20 species) North and South America, New Zealand and Australia.
  • Mathiasella Constance & Hitchc.: (1 species) Mexico.
  • Mulinum Pers.: (20 species) Andes.
  • Myrrhidendron J.M.Coult. & Rose: (5 species) Central America and northern Andes to Ecuador.
  • Neonelsonia J.M.Coult. & Rose: (2 species) Mexico to southern Andes.
  • Niphogeton Schltdl.: (18 species) northern Andes.
  • Oreomyrrhis Endl.: (23 species) Asia, Australia, Central and South America.
  • Ottoa Kunth: (1 species) Mexico.
  • Pastinaca L.: (14 species) temperate Eurasia, but P. sativa L. (parsnip) introduced.
  • Prionosciadium S. Watson: (8 species) Mexico.
  • Sanicula L.: (c. 40 species) almost cosmopolitan.
  • Spananthe Jacq.: (1 species) Andes.
  • Tauschia Schltdl.: (31 species) SW North America to southern South America.
Key differences from similar families

Members of the Apicaceae are both similar to and closely related to members of the Araliaceae. The Apicaceae are:

  • Usually herbs, (vs. usually shrubs and trees in Araliaceae).
  • The leaves usually lack stipules (vs. usually present).
  • The fruit a dry schizocarp with 2 mericarps (vs. a berry-like drupe).
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Predominantly herbs with pinnately or palmately dissected leaves.
  • Inflorescences usually in umbels, less often in heads.
  • Flowers with 5 sepals, petals and stamens.
  • Inferior ovary with 2 carpels.
  • Fruits are schizocarps with 2 mericarps.
Notable genera and distinguishing features
  • Myrrhidendron: the most tree -like genus in the Neotropics, but species of Arracacia, Coaxana, Coulterophytum, Enantiophylla, Neonelsonia, Prionosciadium, Mathiasella and Dahliaphyllum also contain secondary (woody) tissue.
  • Azorella: species form densely tufted cushion plants.
  • Lilaeopsis: the 14-20 species are morphologically similar and occur in aquatic sites of the Americas, New Zealand and Australia.
General Description
Number of genera
  • Approximately 50 genera represented in the Neotropics.
  • 60% of Azorelloideae are in South America where they form an important component of the southern temperate zones.
General notes
  • The family is the source of many important herbs and spices (e.g. parsley, fennel, dill, coriander, cumin, caraway, and anise), as well as several vegetable crops (e.g. carrots, parsnips, and celery). Most of these originated in the Mediterranean, but are cultivated worldwide. Eryngium foetidum L. is native to the Neotropics, and used as a substitute for coriander.
  • Arracacia are perennial herbs from taproots or tubers, and include numerous forms of the cultivated root -vegetable A. xanthothorrhiza Bancr. (Arracacha, apio, Peruvian parsnip).
  • Coniummaculatum L. is deadly poisonous and widely naturalized.
  • Native, cultivated, naturalized and endemic taxa are found.
Notes on delimitation
  • Members of the Apicaceae are both similar and closely related to members of the Araliaceae. The borders between the two families have long been blurred, but recent transfers of genera between the two families are supported by molecular data (e.g. Plunkett et al. 2004; Andersson et al. 2006) - e.g. the trasfer of Hydrocotyle L. from Apiaceae to Araliaceae, and of genera around Mackinlaya F.Muell. from Araliaceae to Apiaceae has created some stability.
Important literature

Andersson, L., Kocsis, M., & Eriksson, R. 2006. Relationships of the genus Azorella (Apiaceae) and other hydrocotyloids inferred from sequence variation in three plastid markers. Taxon 55: 270-280.

Downie, S. R., Katz-Downie, D. S., & Watson, M. F. 2000. A phylogeny of the flowering plant family Apiaceae based on chloroplast rpl16 and rpoC1 sequences: Towards a suprageneric classification of subfamily Apioideae. American J. Bot. 87: 273-292.

Maas, P. J. M. & Westra, L. Y. Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. 3rd ed. Pp. 296. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

Mathias, M. E. & Constance, L. 1976. 145. Umbelliferae. Flora of Ecuador vol. (Eds. G. Harling & B. Sparre), 71 pp. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Göteborg. Berlingska Boktryckriet, Lund.

Plunkett, G. M., Soltis, D. E., & Soltis, P. S. 1997. Clarification of the relationship between Apiaceae and Araliaceae based on matK and rbcL sequence data. American J. Bot. 84: 565-580.

Plunkett, G. M., Wen, J., & Lowry P. P. II. 2004. Infrafamilial classifications and characters in Araliaceae: Insights from the phylogenetic analysis of nuclear (ITS) and plastid (trnL-trnF) sequence data. Plant Syst. Evol. 245: 1-39.

Plunkett, G. M., Chandler, G. T., Lowry, P. P. II, Pinney, S. M., & Sprenkle, T. S. 2004b. Recent advances in understanding Apiales and a revised classification. South African J. Bot. 70: 371-381.

Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9, June 2008.


Umbelliferae, C.C. Townsend. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1989

Morphology General Habit
Annual, biennial or perennial herbs, rarely shrubs or arborescent; stems commonly but not invariably pithy and fistular
Morphology Leaves
Leaves very variable in form, from simple to simply pinnate, ternate, or repeatedly ternately or pinnately divided, sometimes spinous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence characteristically a compound umbel with or without bracts below the main umbel (bracts of the involucre) and/or the secondary umbel (bracteoles of the involucel), sometimes reduced to a simple umbel or capitate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite or else polygamous with a terminal fertile umbel and ? lateral umbels or with ? flowers also within the fertile umbel or fertile flowers around the laterals, rarely flowers unisexual on separate plants (dioecious), actinomorphic or zygomorphic by the enlarged (“radiant”) outer petals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx adnate to the ovary, the lobes distinct to totally obsolete
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals usually with an inflexed point or apical lobule — absent in radiant petals even in plants which possess it in the smaller inner petals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens 5, strongly inflexed up to anthesis and then usually spreading between the petals, with which they alternate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary inferior, bilocular, bicarpellate; placentation axile, each locule uniovulate; styles 2, long and slender to obsolete so that the stigmas appear sessile, when (as usually) present, commonly but not invariably expanded below into a conical to cylindrical base (stylopodium) which may have a ± distinct, often crenulate disk around its base
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit characteristically a schizocarp formed of 2 mericarps at first coherent by their faces at the commissure, compressed dorsally (i.e. parallel to the commissural face) or laterally (at right-angles to the commissural face) or the schizocarp terete and occasionally indehiscent; mericarps normally dehiscent by the carpophore — a wiry, slender, commonly bifid stalk running from the tip of the pedicel and separating from the centre of the commissural faces, adhering only to the apex of each mericarp; mericarps with normally 5 primary ribs, sometimes with secondary ribs between; ribs may be thin and indistinct to very large and corky, or developing hairs, spines or wings; vittae (oil tubes) are commonly but not invariably present in the interstices (valleculae) between the ribs, and/or beneath the ribs and on the commissure; they may be superficially visible or detectable only on sections of the fruit
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Embryo minute, but the endosperm copious, its shape in cross-section of considerable importance in the classification of the family


Umbelliferae, J. F. M. Cannon. Flora Zambesiaca 4. 1978

Morphology General Habit
Herbs, frequently with regularly furrowed stems, very rarely shrubs or small trees
Morphology Stem
Stems usually hollow or with a prominent pith
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate, usually compound, often finely divided, occasionally simple and very rarely peltate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers arranged in simple, or more commonly compound, umbels, rarely verticillate or capitate Flowers normally hermaphrodite, but sometimes some or all of the flowers in an umbel unisexual by reduction
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx adnate to the ovary and visible only as minute teeth or totally lacking
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5, valvate to slightly imbricate, epigynous, usually white but rarely yellowish, greenish5, tinged with pink or very rarely blue
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens 5, free, alternating with the petals; anthers 2-celled, opening by longitudinal splits
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Styles 2, usually divergent, often connate for part of their length and frequently with a well-developed stylopodium Ovary inferior, 2-celled with a solitary pendulous ovule in each cell The carpels often have well-developed ribs, and frequently have characteristic resin-canals (vittae) in their walls
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit dry, usually dividing at maturity into 2 single-seeded mericarps which are supported on a central carpophore derived from the main vascular strand of the fruit The fruit may be laterally or dorsally flattened and have large lateral wings which are associated with wind dispersal. They are sometimes equipped with hooks or spines, an adaptation connected with dispersal in the fur of animals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
The seeds are provided with copious endosperm and have minute embryos


Umbelliferae, F.N. Hepper. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:2. 1958

Morphology General Habit
Herbs with furrowed stems and broad soft pith, rarely shrubs or small trees
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate, usually compound and much divided, sometimes simple, rarely peltate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers usually hermaphrodite, rarely unisexual, in simple or compound umbels, rarely capitate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx adnate to the ovary, normally with 5 minute teeth
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5, free, valvate or slightly imbricate, epigynous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens 5, free, alternate with the petals; filaments inflexed in bud, anthers 2-celled, opening lengthwise
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Styles 2, ovary inferior, 2-celled, ovules solitary in each cell, pendulous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit dry, dividing when ripe into 2 mericarps, supported by a central carpophore; carpels usually ribbed and often with resin canals (vittae) in their walls; mericarps sometimes hairy and sometimes provided with hooks or spines
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds with copious endosperm and minute embryo

Apiaceae Lindl. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Intr. Nat. Syst. Bot., ed. 2. 21. 1836 [13 Jun 1836] ; (nom. alt.: Umbelliferae) (1836)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    Flora Zambesiaca

  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Neotropikey

    Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.