ROSACEAE - TheBackCountry

Rosaceae, the rose family, is a medium-sized family of flowering plants, including 4,828 known species in 91 genera. The name is derived from the type genus Rosa. Among the most species-rich genera are Alchemilla (270), Sorbus (260), Crataegus (260), Cotoneaster (260), Rubus (250), and Prunus (plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, and almonds) with about 200 species. However, all of these numbers should be seen as estimates – much taxonomic work remains. The family Rosaceae includes herbs, shrubs, and trees. Most species are deciduous, but some are evergreen. They have a worldwide range, but are most diverse in the Northern Hemisphere. Several economically important products come from the Rosaceae, including many edible fruits (such as apples, pears, quinces, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, loquats, and strawberries), almonds, and ornamental trees and shrubs (such as roses, meadowsweets, photinias, firethorns, rowans, and hawthorns).

The leaves are generally arranged spirally, but have an opposite arrangement in some species. They can be simple or pinnately compound (either odd- or even-pinnate). Compound leaves appear in around 30 genera. The leaf margin is most often serrate. Paired stipules are generally present, and are a primitive feature within the family, independently lost in many groups of Amygdaloideae (previously called Spiraeoideae). The stipules are sometimes adnate (attached surface to surface) to the petiole. Glands or extrafloral nectaries may be present on leaf margins or petioles. Spines may be present on the midrib of leaflets and the rachis of compound leaves.

Flowers of plants in the rose family are generally described as "showy". They are actinomorphic (i.e. radially symmetrical) and almost always hermaphroditic. Rosaceae generally have five sepals, five petals, and many spirally arranged stamens. The bases of the sepals, petals, and stamens are fused together to form a characteristic cup-like structure called a hypanthium. They can be arranged in racemes, spikes, or heads; solitary flowers are rare.

The fruits occur in many varieties and were once considered the main characters for the definition of subfamilies amongst Rosaceae, giving rise to a fundamentally artificial subdivision. They can be follicles, capsules, nuts, achenes, drupes (Prunus), and accessory fruits, like the pome of an apple, or the hip of a rose. Many fruits of the family are edible, but their seeds often contain amygdalin, which can release cyanide during digestion if the seed is damaged.

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