1. Basellaceae Raf.

    1. This family is accepted.


Basellaceae, B. L. Stannard. Flora Zambesiaca 9:1. 1988

Subsucculent herbs with slender twining stems, glabrous
Leaves alternate, entire or almost entire, usually petiolate, exstipulate
Inflorescences of spikes, racemes or panicles, axillary or terminal
Flowers small, actinomorphic, hermaphrodite or unisexual; bracts small; bracteoles 2–4, frequently appressed to base of perianth, sometimes winged
Perianth 5-lobed, lobes united at base only or into a 5-lobed tube, imbricate, persistent in fruit
Stamens 5, inserted opposite and at base of perianth lobes; filaments free; anthers dehiscing variously
Ovary superior, unilocular; styles terminal, free or united or 3-fid; stigmas 3; ovule solitary, basal, short stalked
Fruit indehiscent, enveloped by persistent frequently fleshy perianth
Seeds solitary, globose; endosperm present

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

Twiners with slender steins and rather fleshy alternate entire petiolate leaves; stipules absent
Flowers hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, in spikes, racemes or panicles; bracts small; bracteoles 2, often united to the base of the calyx
Sepals 5, often coloured, almost free or united into a 5-lobed tube, imbricate, persistent in fruit
Petals absent
Stamens 5, inserted opposite and at the base of the sepals; filaments free, short; anthers with 2 parallel cells opening longitudinally
Ovary superior, 1-celled, with a solitary basal shortly stalked ovule; style terminal, often deeply divided into 3 stigmas
Fruit indehiscent, surrounded by the persistent often fleshy calyx
Seed solitary, almost spherical, with a membranous testa; endosperm copious, surrounded by the spirally twisted embryo

Basellaceae, B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1968

Subsucculent, glabrous, twining herbs with slender stems and alternate, entire, petiolate or rarely sessile, exstipulate leaves
Flowers regular, hermaphrodite or unisexual, in spikes, racemes or panicles; bracts small; bracteoles 2–4, often 2 adnate to the base of the perianth, sometimes wing-like
Perianth 5-lobed; lobes imbricate, sometimes coloured, united into a tube below or almost free, persistent
Stamens 5, opposite to the perianth-lobes, inserted at their base; filaments free, short; anthers versatile, variously dehiscing
Ovary superior, 1-locular; ovule solitary, basal, shortly stalked, campylotropous; style terminal, simple or 3-fid, or 3 free styles
Fruit indehiscent, surrounded by the persistent often fleshy perianth or winged bracteoles
Seeds solitary, almost spherical; endosperm copious or almost absent, surrounded by the spirally twisted or semi-annular embryo

Eriksson, R. (2009). Neotropical Basellaceae.


Perennial , ± fleshy to succulent , herbaceous or occasionally suffruticose vines, or sometimes ± erect plants. Roots fibrous to (at least sometimes) thickened. Stem usually glabrous , rarely asperous or when young puberulent , up to several metres long, sometimes producing subterranean or aerial tubers. Leaves alternate , simple , without stipules, petiolate ; leaf blades entire , rarely dentate by glands . Inflorescences axillary or terminal spikes, racemes, panicles, or dichasia. Bracts thin, deciduous or persistent . Pedicels absent or present. Bracteoles 2, opposite, at apex of pedicel or displaced due to elongation of pedicel , deciduous or persistent , usually thin, rarely lacking. Flowers sessile to pedicellate, except calyx actinomorphic , bisexual or rarely functionally unisexual, chasmogamous or cleistogamous. Sepals 2, valvate , opposite, alternating with bracteoles, petaloid , patent to erect , persistent and often somewhat accrescent in fruit , free from each other or partly connate , fused at least at base with petals, usually entire , occasionally with a gibba at base or a dorsal wing (in fruit ), at anthesis greenish, whitish, yellowish, or reddish, in fruit pale, brownish, or ± black, membranous to rather thick, rarely fleshy . Petals 5, imbricate , patent to erect , persistent and often somewhat accrescent in fruit , connate only at base or up to c. 2/3 of their length, usually entire , at anthesis greenish, whitish, yellowish, or reddish, in fruit pale, brownish, or ± black, membranous to rather thick, rarely fleshy . Stamens 5, epipetalous, connate and fused only at base or up to c. 3/4 of their length with petals; anthers dorsifixed or basifixed, tetrasporangiate, dithecal, extrorsely dehiscent by longitudinal slits or by short, apical slits; pollen spheroidal to cuboidal, perforate or rarely reticulate , spinulose or not, colpate or porate. Pistil 1, 3-carpellate; ovary superior , syncarpous, unilocular with basal placentation; ovule 1, bitegmic, amphitropous to campylotropous; style 1, undivided to 3- parted almost to the base, or styles 3; stigmas linear to capitate or 3- lobed , rarely bifid or undifferentiated. Fruit indehiscent , nut -like, usually smooth, rarely rugose , in cross section rounded to somewhat hexagonal, surrounded at base to completely enclosed by persistent perianth ; embryo annular to cochleate .

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Anredera Juss.: Mexico to SE Brazil and Venezuela, and the Caribbean Islands.
  • Basella L.: Central America to S Peru and E Brazil, and the Caribbean Islands (introduced).
  • Tournonia Moq.: W Colombia to N Ecuador.
  • Ullucus Caldas: Venezuela to N Argentina.
Useful tips for generic identification

Key to genera of Neotropical Basellaceae

1. Leaf margin dentate by glands; inflorescence a dichasium...Tournonia
1. Leaf margin entire; inflorescence a raceme, spike, or panicle...2

2. Petals caudate at apex; anthers basifixed, dehiscent by short apical slits —Ullucus
2. Petals obtuse at apex; anthers dorsifixed, dehischent by longitudinal slits —3

3. Inflorescence axisfleshy; flowers sessile...Basella
3. Inflorescence axis not fleshy; flowers pedicellate —Anredera

Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Small flowers with 2 petaloid sepals and 5 petals, subtended by 2 opposite bracteoles.
Other important characters
  • Usually fleshy to succulent vines.
  • Fruits nut-like and mostly enclosed by persistentperianth.
General Description
  • All species of Anredera, Tournonia, and Ullucus are native, and all except a few widespread Anredera species are endemic; the Basella species found in the Neotropics is cultivated and naturalised.
General notes
  • Most species are found in open, dry habitats. Ullucus tuberosus Caldas is an important high Andean food crop, and Basellaalba L. is cultivated for its edible leaves. A few Anredera species are grown as ornamentals, also outside their native distributions.
  • The homologies of the (1) bracteoles, (2) sepals, and (3) petals have been much debated without being definitely settled. They are sometimes referred to as (1) bracts, pedicellar bracts, lateral bracts, lower bractlets, or lower bracteoles; (2) upper bractlets, upper bracteoles, or involucral bracts; (3) sepals or tepals.
Number of genera

4 genera:

  • Anredera (12 spp.).
  • Basella (1 introduced sp.).
  • Tournonia (1 sp.).
  • Ullucus (1 sp.).
Important literature

Eriksson, R. 2004. Basellaceae. In: N. Smith et al. (eds), Flowering plants of the Neotropics, pp. 44-45, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Eriksson, R. 2007. A synopsis of Basellaceae. Kew Bulletin 62: 297-320.

Sperling, C. R. 1987. Systematics of the Basellaceae. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge.

Sperling, C. R. & Bittrich, V. 1993. Basellaceae. In: K. Kubitzki et al. (eds), The families and genera of vascular plants 2: 143-146, Springer-Verlag, Berlin.


Basellaceae Raf. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Fl. Tellur. 3: 44. 1837 (1837)

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 2020. 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

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