(This is going to be a rather involved article so please bear with me for a few days while I get it just right.)
The amaranth family contains over 180 genera and 2500 species, many of which are delicious. Most of the plants in this family are herbs. There are a few shrubs, but very few vines or trees. It is a very diverse group. Most of the plants in this group have singular leaves with serrated edges that grow alternately along the stem, though some grow opposite. In some species the leaves are so small that they are but scales, but many species have large, lush leaves. The flowers are usually quite small, often borne in large spikes.
The amaryllis family contains a number of important plants, including magical, edible and ornamental garden plants. The plants tend to have long bare stems with flowers growing in bunches on top and lance-shaped leaves that grow along the base of the stem. They often have bulbous roots. The flowers have three leaves and three sepals.
Is the cashew family. They are mostly trees and shrubs. Flowers are usually small and the leaves are usually alternate. These plants exude a poisonous milky sap that often also has a foul odor.
The apiaceae or carrot family is also called the Umbelliferae family. The plants in this family bear their flowers in umbels, umbrella-like inflorescences. This is a very large family of more than 3700 species in 434 genera. In addition to their characteristic flower clusters, they usually have smooth, hallow stems and feathery leaves. Many also have thick juicy roots. These plants are usually quite fragrant, though not always pleasant.
Some of the most useful culinary herbs as well as some of the most deadly poisons reside in this family. These include carrot, parsley, angelica, anise, asafoetida, caraway, celery, gotu kola, chervil, cicely, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, water parsnip, hemlock, sea holly.
Until recently, these plants were part of the lily family but recently, seven families have been combined into the asparagus family.
The Betulaceae family is the birch family which contains 6 genera and more than 130 species. They have simple, serrated leaves that appear alternately on the tree. Male and female flowers appear on the same tree, usually before the leaves and are catkins and the fruits are either samaras or small nuts.
The Boraninaceae family, or borage family includes more than 2500 species and 146 genera. Most of these plants are herbs, but some of them are trees, vines and there are even a few parasites. These plants are usually quite hairy with round stems and alternate leaves.
The Brassicaceae family is also called the Cruciferea family. This latter name means "cross-bearing" and is drawn from the shape of the flowers, four petals, equal in size and shape form an equal-armed cross. Another really unique feature of this family is that stamens, there are four long and two short in each flower. This is the cabbage and mustard family and is loaded with good things to eat. I am not aware of any plant in this family that toxic.
Bromeliads are a diverse family of plants that grow in a number of different habitats. Some don't even need soil. They are monocots and the leaves grow from a basal rosette and are often very colorful. Some important members of the bromeliad family are pineapple and Spanish moss
The cactus family is a family of succulent plants adapted for water conservation. In most cases, the plant has a thick, juicy stem covered with hairs or spines. Leaves are often absent or very small, though some species do sport them. There are some beautiful flowers in the cactus family and much of the fruit they produce is edible. Some cacti are best known for containing mescaline, a psychoactive alkaloid used by indigenous Americans for ceremonial purposes.
Calycantaceae is the sweetshrub family. They are mostly small, fragrant deciduous shrubs native to the US and Asia. There are only three genera and 10 species in this family. Among them wintersweet, sweetshrub, spicebush
The bellflowers are a lovely family of herbs, shrubs and a few small trees. As the nickname for this family might suggest, it is best known for its bell-shaped flowers. The leaves are simple and usually alternate on the stem. Many of these plants are pollinated by hummingbirds. There are 84 genera and more than 2300 species in this family including bellflower, lobelia, cardinal flower and baloonflower
The Cannabaceae family is an extremely diverse if not overlarge family consisting mostly of herbs, vines and trees, many of which are extremely useful to humans. Most of the plants in this family bear male and female flowers on different plants, but the flowers tend to be small and inconspicuous. The plants are wind pollinated. The leaves are usually hand-shaped; the shape formed by deep lobes in the leaf or by separate leaflets and they always have stipules at the base.
Caprifoliaceae is the honeysuckle family which consists of mostly shrubs and vines and a few herbaceous plants. The flowers are unique and funnel or bell-shaped and the leaves appear opposite on the stem. The fruit may be a berry or a drupe or, rarely, a capsule. There are quite a few species (860) in 42 genera, many very attractive to the gardener, and also a few attractive to the witch. See honeysuckle, bush honeysuckle, horse gentian, teasel, valerian, spikenard, corn salad
The Compositae family is also known as the Asteraceae or Aster family. It is huge and very important for many people who suffer from hay fever as the pollen from these plants can be highly allergenic. The feature most unique to this family is its composite flowers made up of many flowers forming a tight head that looks like one flower. This family contains some of the most well-known and important plants.
artichoke, calendula, lettuce, chamomile, echinacea, chrysanthemum, daisy, yarrow, feverfew, marigold. arnica, mugwort, wormwood, dandelion, Jerusalem artichoke, tansy, chicory, thistle, terragon, cocklebur, knapweed, ironweed, costmary, greenthread, coltsfoot, toothache plant, sunflower
Convolvulaceae is often referred to as the bindweed or morning glory family. There are over 50 genera and 1600 species in this family. Members of the Convolvulaceae family exist all over the world in many different climates. Many are climbing plants, but there are also some trees and shrubs in this group. The name of the family comes from the Latin convolvere meaning "to wind" with regard to the habit of many of these plants of winding their way up any vertical object.
All of these plants have singular leaves that alternate on the stem; they are often heart shaped. It is usually a climber, spiraling around the object it is climbing, or sprawling along the ground in the absence of something to climb, but some Convolvulacaea plants stand upright. The flowers consist of five petals, usually fused to make the radially symmetrical funnel shape characteristic of this family. The roots are fibrous and some species form tubers.
This is a popular plant family for gardening as some members are very ornamental while others are used for food. Some of these plants are toxic.
Cyperaceae is the Sedge family. Many of these plants resemble grasses but they can be quickly distinguished by examining the leaves and stems. Sedge stems have a triangular cross-section and the leaves are arranged in three ranks. Grasses lack these features. Many sedges are associated with wetlands. Papyrus sedge, water chestnut, nutgrass
The Elaeagnaceae family is the oleaster family, a family of shrubs and small trees. Many of these shrubs and trees bear edible fruit and some are used medicinally. sea buckthorn, buffalo berry, autumn olive
The spurge family is huge and diverse consisting of some 300 genera and 7500 species. They include herbs, including common weeds, shrubs and trees and include some of the most important plants in our history. Many of the plants exude sticky white latex. Some of the most interesting poisons come from this family.
The Gentiana family consists of more than 1700 individual plants, mostly herbs and a few shrubs. They are unique in that their leaves lack leaf stalks and serrations and the flowers have four or five united petals that are twisted in the bud. Centaury, gentiana,
Ginko is the last remaining species of this ancient family of plants.
The Iris family is popular with ornamental gardeners. The leaves are grass-like, narrow and rising up from the ground, with a central fold and flowers tend to grow at the end of a central stem, singly or in groups.
The Juglandaceae family is the walnut family. The trees in this family have large pinnately compound leaves arranged alternately, for the most part. They are some of the most important trees for their nutrient rich nuts and beautiful, hard timber.
The Lamiaceae family is the mint family and contains some of the most well-known medicinal, culinary and magical herbs. The most unique feature of this family is its square stem and the mouth-shaped flower that gave it its earlier name Labiateae, from the Latin word for lips.
mint, horehound, basil, sage, rosemary, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender, perilla, monarda, lemon balm, rock thyme, mosquito plant, deadnettle, chaste tree, teak, wood betony, Chinese artichoke, lamb's ear, betony, rattlesnake weed, woundwort, pennyroyal, skullcap, ironwort, catnip, yerba buena, calamint, mountain mint, beauty berry, Balm of Gilead, Horsebalm
The laurel family consists of over 3000 species in 50 genera. Most are trees, but there are some parasitic vines. They all produce drupes that resemble a one-seeded berry and some of these are enclosed in a cupule, like an acorn.
bay laurel, avocado, cinnamon
The Leguminosea family also the Fabaceae family, legumes or beans. They include trees, shrubs, herbs and vining plants. Their bean-like fruits are unique to the family. They also tend to have compound leaves. They are best known for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and for producing protein-rich fruit, though many are poisonous.
soy, bean, pea, sweet pea, carob, licquorice, broom, gorse, kudzu, black lucust, Kentucky Coffeetree, acacia, Acacia Coral, African dream herb, jumbay, sensitive plant, silk tree, water mimosa, African locust bean, needlebush, sweet thorn, tamarind, indigo, false indigo
The Lily family is popular among gardeners and has about 600 species, some with rather illustrious histories. Lilies are monocots and tend to have large showy flowers with their parts arranged in multiples of three.
The clubmoss family is a group of primitive vascular plants that reproduce via spores.
The mallow family is an exciting family full of wonderful healing and nutrient-rich plants. Most are herbs or shrubs, a few are trees. With palmately lobed or divided leaves arranged (usually) alternately on the stem and often striking flowers, these plants tend to be quite beautiful.
Melanthiaceae is a family of perennial flowering lily-like monocots. Some very rare and fascinating plants are included in this family including false unicorn, trillium, herb Paris, black snakeroot, death camas, bunchflower, false hellebore,
This is the banana family.
The myrtle family is another very interesting family. They are dicots, all woody, evergreen trees and shrubs provide some of our most beloved essential oil fragrances. allspice, clove, guava, myrtle, eucalyptus, bloodwood, tea tree
The Nymphaeaceae family is the water lily. They are aquatic flowering plants with rhizomatic root structures.
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