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©Copyright 1993 by the Regents of the University of California

  • Up-to-date information about California vascular plants is available from the Jepson eFlora.



Ronald L. Hartman (except Silene)

Annual, biennial, perennial herb, rarely dioecious, taprooted or rhizome generally slender
Leaves simple, generally opposite; stipules generally 0; petiole generally 0; blade entire, sheath generally 0
Inflorescence: cyme, generally open; flowers few–many or flower solitary and axillary; involucre generally 0
Flower generally bisexual, radial; hypanthium sometimes present; sepals generally 5, ± free or fused into a tube, tube generally herbaceous between lobes or teeth; awns generally 0; petals generally 5 or 0, generally tapered to base (or with claw long, blade expanded), entire to 2–several-lobed, blade generally without scale-like appendages (inner surface), generally without ear-like lobes at base; stamens generally 10, generally fertile, generally free, generally from ovary base; nectaries generally 0; ovary superior, generally 1-chambered, placentas basal or free-central, styles 2–5 or 1 and 2–3-branched
Fruit: capsule or utricle (rarely modified, dehiscent), generally sessile
Seeds: appendage generally 0
Genera in family: 85 genera, 2400 species: widespread, especially arctic, alpine, temp, n hemisphere; some cultivated (Agrostemma, Arenaria, Cerastium, Dianthus, Gypsophila, Lychnis, Saponaria, Silene, Vaccaria ).



Annual, matted or tufted, taprooted
Leaves opposite, sometimes appearing whorled; stipules 0.4–2.8 mm, lanceolate to triangular, scarious, entire to irregularly toothed or cut, white; petiole short or 0; blade oblanceolate to obovate; vein 1
Inflorescence: cyme, axillary; flowers few–many, open to dense; pedicels 0.2–2 mm
Flower: sepals 5, ± free, 1–2.2 mm, lanceolate to ovate, glabrous, awn conic to widely triangular; petals 5, 0.5–1.1 mm, entire or notched; stamens 3–5, ± fused at base; style 1, 3-branched, 0.1–0.3 mm
Fruit: capsule, ovoid to spheric; valves 3, margin rolled inward
Seeds several, brown
Species in genus: 16 species: worldwide
Etymology: (Greek: many fruit, from capsule number)


P. tetraphyllum (L.) L.


Plant glabrous
Stem prostrate to erect, often much-branched, especially above, 3–17 cm
Leaves opposite but often appearing to be in whorls of 4; stipules 1.8–2.8 mm, lanceolate to widely triangular; petiole 0 or tapered into blade; blade 4–12 mm, obovate
Flower: sepals 1.8–2.2 mm, lanceolate to ovate, margin scarious, white, prominently keeled, awn 0.3–0.7 mm, widely triangular; petals linear to elliptic
Seed 0.4–0.5 mm, obliquely triangular, granular
Chromosomes: 2n=32,48,64
Ecology: Disturbed areas, roadsides, shaded waste areas
Elevation: < 450 m.
Bioregional distribution: Outer North Coast Ranges, n Sierra Nevada Foothills, Sacramento Valley, Central Coast, South Coast, San Gabriel Mountains
Distribution outside California: native to s Europe

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