In India this family consists of 20 genera and 105 species mostly in temperate regions.
Mostly annual or perennial herbs and rarely under shrubs . Stellaria aquatica is an aquatic herb.
The root is usually a tap root and the stem is often swollen at nodes.
The leaves are opposite or rarely alternate, simple, mostly linear to lanceolate and sessile. The two leaves at the stem are often connected basally around the stem. The stipules are usually absent.
Inflorescence and flowers:
The Inflorescence is typically dichasial cyme often terminating the main axis. A branch is formed in the axil of each bracteole of the main axis but one of the branches tends to outgrow the other and in the ultimate branching the weaker branch fails to develop. Thus the Inflorescence which is dichasial cyme in its initial branching pass into scorpioid cyme. This type of Inflorescence is very characteristic of the family and is known as cincinnus or caryophyllus type of Inflorescence.
The flowers are hermaphrodite or rarely unisexual, actinomorphic, pentamerous and hypogynous or rarely slightly perigynous as in arenaria.
The calyx is usually five basally connate sepals .
The corolla has as many petals as the sepals. The petals are free and are usually differentiated into a limb and a claw. The stamens are usually twice the number of petals in two equal and alternate whorls. They show obdiplostemonous condition. The filaments are distinct or slightly connate at the base.
The gynoecium is of two or three to five fused carpels.the ovary is superior or slightly inferior and unilocular with free central placentation.
A disc is present at the base of the stamens which is annular or divided into glands.
The fruit is membranous or crustaceous capsule opening by valves or apical teeth.
The seeds are endospermic with more or less curved embryo.
Pollination is by insects.
The seeds are dispersed by water, wind or by adhesion or by birds, animals and human agency.
The family is valuable for its large colourful ornamental flowers which are easily grown.
Dianthus species are cultivated for very showy flowers.
Dianthus caryophylus. (Carnation)
Stellaria media; S.vestita