Herbs annual or perennial, rarely subshrubs or shrubs. Stems and branches usually swollen at nodes. Leaves opposite, decussate, rarely alternate or verticillate, simple, entire, usually connate at base; stipules scarious, bristly, or often absent. Inflorescence of cymes or cymose panicles, rarely flowers solitary or few in racemes, capitula, pseudoverticillasters, or umbels. Flowers actinomorphic, bisexual, rarely unisexual, occasionally cleistogamous. Sepals (4 or)5, free, imbricate, or connate into a tube, leaflike or scarious, persistent, sometimes bracteate below calyx. Petals (4 or)5, rarely absent, free, often comprising claw and limb; limb entire or split, usually with coronal scales at juncture of claw and limb. Stamens (2--)5--10, in 1 or 2 series. Pistil 1; carpels 2--5, united into a compound ovary. Ovary superior, 1-loculed or basally imperfectly 2--5-loculed. Gynophore present or absent. Placentation free, central, rarely basal; ovules (1 or) few or numerous, campylotropous. Styles (1 or)2--5, sometimes united at base. Fruit usually a capsule, with pericarp crustaceous, scarious, or papery, dehiscing by teeth or valves 1 or 2 × as many as styles, rarely berrylike with irregular dehiscence or an achene. Seeds 1 to numerous, reniform, ovoid, or rarely dorsiventrally compressed, abaxially grooved, blunt, or sharply pointed, rarely fimbriate-pectinate; testa granular, striate or tuberculate, rarely smooth or spongy; embryo strongly curved and surrounding perisperm or straight but eccentric; perisperm mealy.
Herbs [small trees, shrubs, or vines], winter annual, annual, biennial, or perennial, glabrous or pubescence of simple hairs or stalked glands; taprooted and/or rhizomatous with fibrous roots, sometimes from woody caudex, rhizomes rarely with tuberous thickenings. Stems erect to prostrate, often with swollen nodes, herbaceous. Leaves opposite, pseudoverticillate, whorled, or rarely alternate, distinct or connate proximally, simple; petiole often present; stipules present or absent; blade subulate to linear, spatulate to broadly ovate or suborbiculate, succulent or not, margins entire. Inflorescences terminal or axillary cymes, thyrses, or capitula, or flowers solitary; bracts usually paired, foliaceous or reduced, herbaceous to scarious, or absent; involucel bracteoles (epicalyces) immediately subtending calyx occasionally present. Pedicels present, or flowers sessile. Flowers bisexual or occasionally unisexual, radially symmetric; perianth and androecium hypogynous or perigynous; hypanthium, when present, urceolate, cup-, disc-, or dish-shaped, sometimes abruptly expanded distally; sepals persistent in fruit, (3-)4-5, distinct or connate proximally into cup or tube, herbaceous or scarious, apex sometimes hooded or with apical or subapical spine; petals absent or (1-)4-5, often fugacious in Polycarpon, distinct, often clawed, auricles present or absent, coronal appendages present or absent, blade apex entire, notched, or 2(-4)-fid, sometimes dentate or laciniate; stamens 1-10, in 1 or 2 whorls, arising from base of ovary, nectariferous disc, or hypanthium rim, absent in pistillate flowers; staminodes usually absent, or 1-10 or 16-19; ovary 1, superior, 1-locular, rarely 2-locular proximally, or 3-5 locular, placentation free-central, basal, or axile in proximal half; ovules mostly campylotropous, bitegmic, crassinucellate; styles 1-5(-6), distinct or connate proximally, absent in staminate flowers; stigmas 2-5(-6), linear along adaxial surface of styles (or style branches), subcapitate, or terminal, papillate or obscurely so, absent in staminate flowers. Fruits capsules, carpels opening into entire valves or valves split axially into teeth to divided to base, or a usually indehiscent utricle; carpophore sometimes present. Seeds 1-150(-500+), often brown or black, sometimes white or yellowish to tan, reniform or triangular to globose and often laterally compressed, sometimes shield-shaped or oblong and dorsiventrally compressed, horizontal wing sometimes present, spongy appendage (strophiole) rarely present (Moehringia); embryo often peripheral, curved, surrounding the perisperm, rarely annular or central and straight; endosperm absent.
Flowers actinomorphic, mostly hermaphrodite, solitary or in cymes
Herbs, annual or perennial; leaves opposite, simple, often connected at the base by a transverse line; stipules absent or if present often scarious
Petals as many as the sepals, often small or absent
Sepals free or united into a tube, imbricate, often with membranous margins
Ovary superior, sessile or shortly stipitate, 1-celled or imperfectly divided at the base, with free-central placentation; styles free or variously connate; ovules mostly numerous
Stamens up to 10, free from one another or slightly united at the base; anthers 2-celled, dehiscing longitudinally
Capsule opening by valves or apical teeth
Seeds with endosperm and a more or less curved peripheral or excentric embryo
Sepals free or calyx gamosepalous, often persistent and frequently more or less scarious
Petals free, in the gamosepalous genera usually with well-differentiated lamina and claw and coronal scales often present, in the polysepalous genera less differentiated and entire to more or less deeply bifid, sometimes absent
Inflorescence cymose, often loosely dichasial but occasionally secund or capitate, rarely flowers solitary
Flowers actinomorphic (at least in our genera), bisexual or unisexual, 5-merous or rarely 4-merous, perianth hypogynous or perigynous, often with an anthophore between the calyx and corolla
Stamens 5 + 5 or fewer by reduction
Ovary superior, sessile or shortly stalked, 1-locular or incompletely or more rarely completely divided into 2–5 loculi; ovules 2-many with axile, central, free-central or basal placentation
Annual or perennial herbs or shrublets
Leaves opposite, often arranged in false whorls; stipules present or absent
Fruits capsular or reduced to one-seeded indehiscent nutlets
Seeds with perisperm but no, or at most very little, endosperm; embryo most often curved
Stamens 5 + 5 or fewer by reduction
Gynoecium of 2, 3, 4, or 5 carpels, syncarpous; ovary 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-locular or unilocular, with numerous, few, or solitary ovules with axile, central, free central, or basal placentation
Corolla of free petals, in the gamosepalous genera with usually well differentiated lamina and claw and corona of scales often present, in the polysepalous genera not so differentiated, entire to deeply bi-lobed, sometimes absent
Calyx of free sepals (polysepalous) or gamosepalous, frequently persistent and becoming more or less scarious
Flowers, with few exceptions, actinomorphic, hermaphrodite or unisexual (the species then dioecious, monoecious, or polygamous), parts in fives or rarely in fours, perianth hypogynous or perigynous, often with an internode between the calyx and the corolla
Inflorescences cymose, often loosely dichasial but sometimes secund or compact, frequently many-flowered but by reduction few-flowered or flowers solitary
Leaves simple, opposite or rarely spiral, with or without stipules
Herbs (annual or perennial) or subshrubs, rarely shrubs
Plantes'généralement herbacées ou ligneuses à la base, rarement arbustives.'Feuilles'opposées, rarement alternes, entières, souvent étroites, avec ou sans stipules.'Inflorescences'en cymes racémiformes, spiciformes ou capituliformes, rarement fleurs solitaires.'Fleurs'régulières, ☿, rarement ♀♂ par avortement, 4-5-mères, hypo- ou périgynes, à 2, rarement 1-enveloppes florales; calice dialy- ou gamosépale, parfois membraneux; sépales imbriqués; pétales en même nombre que les sépales, souvent rétrécis en onglet à la base, entiers ou ± bilobés au sommet, parfois très petits ou nuls; étamines généralement en nombre double de celui des sépales, rarement en nombre plus élevé ou moindre, en 2 verticilles, dont l'un parfois avorté; staminodes souvent présents; filets libres ou un peu soudés à l'onglet du pétale opposé; disque annulaire et souvent lobé à la base des filets, nectarifère; carpelles 2-5; ovaire sessile ou stipité, uniloculaire ou pluriloculaire, incomplètement, rarement complètement cloisonné; placentation centrale ou basale; styles libres ou soudés, stigmatifères au sommet de la face interne; ovules nombreux, rarement peu nombreux ou 1 ; généralement campylotropes, rarement anatropes, à funicule distinct.'Fruits': capsules s'ouvrant par des dents ou des valves, rarement par un opercule ou irrégulièrement, parfois akènes ou baies.'Graines arrondies, réniformes ou piriformes, pourvues d'un albumen farineux; embryon périphérique et ± courbé, rarement droit.\n\t\t\tFamille répandue surtout dans les régions tempérées, rare entre les tropiques, sauf sur les montagnes; seul le genre'Uebelinia est endémique en Afrique tropicale. Certaines espèces contiennent de la saponine.
Behnke, H.-D. and T. J. Mabry, eds. 1994. Caryophyllales: Evolution and Systematics. Berlin. Bittrich, V. 1993. Caryophyllaceae. In: K. Kubitzki et al., eds. 1990+. The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. 4+ vols. Berlin, etc. Vol. 2, pp. 206-236. Hartman, R. L. 1971. The Family Caryophyllaceae in Wyoming. M.S. thesis. University of Wyoming. Hartman, R. L. 1972. [Flora of Wyoming] Caryophyllaceae. Res. J. Wyoming Agric. Exp. Sta. 64: 14-45. Rabeler, R. K. 2004. Caryophyllaceae (pink family). In: N. P. Smith et al., eds. 2004. Flowering Plants of the Neotropics. Princeton. Pp. 88-90. Rabeler, R. K. and J. W. Thieret. 1988. Comments on the Caryophyllaceae of the southeastern United States. Sida 13: 149-156.