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Most members of the Verbenaceae are tropical trees or shrubs, or sometimes lianes or herbs. One distinct group are shrubs of arid regions, while another is a mangrove that extends to the southern coast of the mainland.

Characteristic features of the family Verbenaceae in Australia include:

  • trees, shrubs, lianes or herbs with opposite, simple leaves, the whole plant sometimes densely covered with much-branched hairs (subfamily Chloanthoideae)
  • inflorescence with bracts and bracteoles; corolla tubular, often zygomorphic and 2-lipped but also regular or almost so
  • stamens 4, often in two pairs of unequal length, enclosed in or exserted from the corolla
  • fruit indehiscent, dry or fleshy, sometimes surrounded by an enlarged, brightly coloured calyx


Evergreen trees, or shrubs, or woody or herbaceous vines climbing or scrambling, or perennial terrestrial herbs. Perennating by taproots. Stems unarmed, or rarely with prickles or spines arising from the stem surface; internodes terete or distinctly angular. Internal secretions not obvious. Plants glabrous, or with simple, dendritic or stellate, unicellular, uniseriate or multiseriate hairs, sometimes with glandular hairs amongst non-glandular ones. Leaves well developed, rarely much reduced, opposite or whorled, rarely spiral, cauline if herbs, petiolate, subsessile or sessile. Stipules and stipellae absent. Lamina simple or once compound, unifoliolate, bifoliolate or ternate, symmetric, pinnatifid or pinnatisect; lamina/leaflets filiform, acicular, subulate, linear, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic, oblanceolate, oblong or orbicular; base cuneate, attenuate, rounded or cordate; margins entire or crenate, ±flat, revolute or recurved; one-veined, or the venation pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate; surfaces punctate or not punctate; herbaceous or leathery; distinctive odour absent or rarely aromatic. Plants with all the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, consisting of capitula, glomerules, spikes, racemes, panicles, dichasial cymes or thyrses. Bracts and bracteoles present or absent. Pollination by insects or wind. Flowers odourless or fragrant, sessile or stalked. Floral disc present or absent; nectaries present or absent on the disc or corolla. Perianth of 2 dissimilar whorls. Calyx regular; segments free or fused, with 48 sepals or lobes, imbricate or open in bud; calyx cup-shaped; herbaceous. Corolla irregular or regular; segments fused, with 48 lobes, alternating with the sepals or calyx lobes, imbricate in bud; corolla funnel-shaped or salver-shaped, 1- or 2-lipped or with palate, white, cream, yellow, orange, pink, magenta, purple, violet or blue, without contrasting markings, or streaked, spotted, etc, membranous, papery or succulent; claws absent; lobes ±entire. Fertile stamens 49, opposite to the sepals or calyx lobes, at least partly fused to the corolla, free of the ovary and style, distinct from each other, all ±equal or in 2 unequal pairs. Staminodes absent. Anthers dorsifixed, versatile, opening inwards by longitudinal slits, 2-celled; appendages absent or rarely basal. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels (1) 2 or 4, fused; ovary with 2, 4 (or 8) or rarely 1 locules. Style terminal, rarely gynobasic or eccentric, single and unbranched, or branching from the base, or rarely single and branched above. Ovules12 (rarely 4) per locule, sessile or ?stalked. Fruit dry or fleshy, a capsule with irregular dehiscence, or a schizocarp forming mericarps; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous, dry and persistent, or growing larger. Disseminule macro-surface featureless or with straight hairs; micro-surface ±smooth, yellow, orange, magenta, purple, violet, green, blue, grey or black, glossy or dull. Seeds 1, 2, 4 (or 8) per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Verbenaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 30.

Australian genera of Verbenaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

* = all species introduced


Avicennia marina var. resinifera (fruits)
Photo: D.Jones D.Jones 

Callicarpa pedunculata (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg ANBG 

Callicarpa pedunculata (fruits)
Photo: G.Sankowski Zodiac Publications 

Chloanthes parviflora (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg M.Fagg