Habit and leaf form. Trees (to 10 m), or ‘arborescent’, or shrubs, or herbs (dwarf to large). ‘Normal’ plants. Perennial; with a basal aggregation of leaves, or with neither basal nor terminal aggregations of leaves; rhizomatous, or tuberous. Self supporting, or epiphytic (on trees). Mesophytic, or xerophytic. Leaves medium-sized, or large; alternate; spiral, or distichous; ‘herbaceous’, or leathery; petiolate (rarely), or subsessile, or sessile; sheathing; simple. Lamina entire; linear, or lanceolate, or oblong, or ovate; parallel-veined; without cross-venules. Lamina margins entire.
Leaf anatomy. Stomata present; paracytic. Hairs present; eglandular; multicellular. Multicellular hairs branched. Complex hairs present; stellate (or scales).
Adaxial hypodermis present (unusual, among asparagoids). Lamina dorsiventral; with secretory cavities, or without secretory cavities (Milligania). Secretory cavities when present, containing mucilage. The mesophyll containing calcium oxalate crystals. The mesophyll crystals raphides and solitary-prismatic. Minor leaf veins without phloem transfer cells (Cordyline). Vessels absent.
Stem anatomy. Secondary thickening absent, or anomalous (e.g. Cordyline); from a single cambial ring. Xylem without vessels.
Root anatomy. Root xylem with vessels; vessel end-walls scalariform.
Reproductive type, pollination. Plants hermaphrodite, or polygamomonoecious. Floral nectaries present. Nectar secretion from the gynoecium (via septal nectaries).
Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in racemes, or in spikes. The ultimate inflorescence unit racemose. Inflorescences terminal; racemes or spikes. Flowers regular; 3 merous (usually), or 5–7 merous (Neoastelia); cyclic; pentacyclic. Perigone tube present, or absent.
Perianth of ‘tepals’; 6 (usually), or 10–14 (Neoastelia); free, or joined; 2 whorled; isomerous; petaloid; similar in the two whorls; green, or white, or violet, or brown.
Androecium 6. Androecial members adnate (to the perianth); all equal; free of one another; 1 whorled (?), or 2 whorled (at least sometimes). Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 6; diplostemonous; alterniperianthial (at least sometimes). Anthers basifixed (or nearly so); dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate; unappendaged. The endothecial thickenings spiral. Microsporogenesis successive, or simultaneous (Milligania). Tapetum glandular. Pollen grains aperturate; 1 aperturate; sulcate; commonly spinulose; 2-celled (Cordyline).
Gynoecium 3(–4) carpelled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth (usually), or increased in number relative to the perianth. The pistil 3 celled (usually), or 1 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary 3 locular (usually), or 1 locular (rarely, when G4). Gynoecium non-stylate, or stylate. Styles 1; apical. Stylar canal present. Stigmas 1; dry type. Placentation when unilocular parietal; axile. Ovules in the single cavity when unilocular, 4–15; 4–15 per locule; anatropous, or campylotropous; crassinucellate.
Fruit fleshy (usually), or non-fleshy; indehiscent (usually), or dehiscent; a berry (usually), or a capsule (e.g. Milligania). Seeds endospermic. Endosperm oily. Cotyledons 1. Embryo straight. Testa encrusted with phytomelan (seemingly, though not encoded as such by Stevenson and Loconte (1995) for cladistic analyses); hard, shining black.
Seedling. Hypocotyl internode present (short). Seedling collar not conspicuous. Cotyledon hyperphyll elongated to compact; assimilatory to non-assimilatory; more or less circular in t.s. Coleoptile absent. Seedling cataphylls present, or absent. Primary root ephemeral.
Physiology, biochemistry. Alkaloids absent (?). Proanthocyanidins absent. Flavonols absent. Ellagic acid absent. Saponins/sapogenins present.
Geography, cytology. Paleotropical, Australian, and Antarctic. Widespread in the Southern Hemisphere, absent from southern Africa. X = 8, 19.
Taxonomy. Subclass Monocotyledonae. Superorder Liliiflorae; Burmanniales. APG (1998) Monocot; non-commelinoid. APG 3 (2009) Order: Asparagales.
Species about 55. Genera 5; Astelia, Collospermum, Cordyline, Milligania, Neoastelia.
See Rudall et al. (1998). Cordyline seems to belong in an extended Lomandraceae, but it is currently impracticable to present the requisite recircumscribed family descriptions here (see comments under Lomandraceae).
• Astelia: fruit and seed details.