Molluginaceae Bartl.

This family is accepted.


Zappi, D. (2010). Neotropical Molluginaceae.


Herbs, rarely woody plants, often creeping and well branched. Leaves alternate , opposite or verticillate , with or without stipules, sessile to shortly petiolate , sometimes linear , venation inconspicuous, blades entire , herbaceous to slightly fleshy . Inflorescences in small cymes to axillary fascicles, flowers sometimes solitary. Flowers hermaphrodite , symmetry radial, hypogynous, relatively small, white, cream or greenish, calyx (4-)5- merous , lobes free to fused at base, corolla absent, sometimes replaced by staminodes; stamens (2-)4-5, rarely more, free or united at base, anthers dehiscing longitudinally; nectar disk present, surrounding the gynoecium ; ovary superior , 2-5-locular, axile placentation, (1-)many ovulate, ovules pendulous. Fruit capsular or achene , seeds black or brown with shiny coat, embryo curved around perisperm, endosperm absent.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Out of its 10-13 genera and approx. 120 species, this family is represented in the Neotropics by 3 genera and 3 species:  Mollugo L., Glinus L. and Glischrothamnus Pilg.
  • All are found in dry, open Neotropical environments. Mollugoverticillata L. and Glinusradiatus (Ruiz & Pav.) Rohrb. are weedy and commonly found in disturbed habitats.
  • Mollugo L. - throughout the Neotropics, only one species, M. verticillata.
  • Glinus L. - a single weedy, widespread species, G. radiatus.
  • Glischrothamnus Pilg. - a narrow endemic, monotypic genus from the Brazilian drylands, G.ulei Pilg.
General Description
Number of genera
  • This family is represented in the Neotropics by 3 genera and 3 species:  Mollugo L., Glinus L., and Glischrothamnus Pilg.,

See above.

General notes
  • Molluginaceae is more diverse in Africa, and some species of Mollugo are used as herbs in cooking.
Notes on delimitation
  • Together with the Aizoaceae, Cactaceae, Portulacaceae and Stegnospermataceae, the Molluginaceae is currently placed within order Caryophyllales (APGII, 2003). However, it lacks the betalain pigments and has rather modest, small flowers.
Useful tips for generic identification

Key to genera of Neotropical Molluginaceae

1. Woody plants ... Glischrothamnus ulei
1. Herbaceous plants ... 2

2. Leaves narrow, linear to linearlanceolate... Mollugo verticillata
2. Leaves spathulate to obovate... Glinus radiatus

Notable genera and distinguishing features

See above.

Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Generally herbaceous plants with flowers lacking corolla.
  • Superiorovary.
  • Relatively small flowers.
Other important characters
  • Leaves often opposite.
  • Stamens usually 5.
  • Ovary pluri-ovulate.
  • Seed with shiny seed -coat.
Key differences from similar families
  • May be confused with Galium L. and other herbaceousRubiaceae because of its general habit, but has superiorovary and free petals (Rubiaceae has inferior ovary and gamopetalous corolla).
  • It can be confused with Aizoaceae and Portulacaceae, but is less succulent and has smaller, less colourful flowers than those.
Important literature

APG II, 2003. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 141(4): 399-436.

Souza, V.C. & Lorenzi, H. 2005. Botânica Sistemática: guia ilustrativo para identificação das famílias de Angiospermas da flora brasileira, baseado em APG II. Nova Odessa, Brazil: Instituto Plantarum.


Molluginaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:1. 1954

Morphology General Habit
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate or opposite; stipules none or very small and soon falling off
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers actinomorphic, hermaphrodite, solitary or cymose, usually small and inconspicuous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals free or united at the base only, imbricate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals small or absent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens hypogynous or slightly perigynous, definite or many; filaments free to connate at the base; anthers 2-celled, opening lengthwise
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary syncarpous (except Gisekia), usually several-celled; styles or stigmas as many as the cells; ovules curved or inverted
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit dry, dehiscing into the cells or by a transverse slit, rarely indehiscent, calyx usually persistent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds with endosperm, the embryo curved


Molluginaceae, M. L. Gonçalves. Flora Zambesiaca 4. 1978

Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Sterile Parts
Staminodes often present, sometimes petaloid
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens 3–?, hypogynous, sometimes in pairs or fascicles, alternate with the perianth-segments when definite in number; filaments often enlarged below; anthers 2-locular, opening by longitudinal slits
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary superior, 2–5-carpellate, apocarpous (in Gisekia) or syncarpous; loculi and stigmas as many as carpels; ovules 1, few or many per loculus; placentation axile or basal
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit of achenes, mericarps or loculicidal capsules
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds usually subreniform or triangular in outline, sometimes strophiolate; embryo usually curved
Morphology General Habit
Succulent or subsucculent annual or perennial herbs or subshrubs, glabrous or covered with simple or stellate hairs (in Glinus lotoides)
Morphology Leaves
Leaves simple, alternate, opposite or verticillate, sometimes crowded, with or without stipules
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences solitary, cymose, loosely dichasial to umbelliform or glomerate, axillary or terminal
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers more or less actinomorphic, hermaphrodite, rarely unisexual (in Gisekia africana)
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Perianth
Perianth-segments 5, free, imbricate, herbaceous, persistent

Molluginaceae Bartl. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Beitr. Bot. [Bartling & H. L. Wendland] 2: 158. 1825 [Dec 1825] (1825)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    Flora Zambesiaca

  • 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 and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Neotropikey

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