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Species distribution and density. Darker squares represent higher density of members of this family.

Introduction

Carpet weed family

The family Molluginaceae consists of herbs or dwarf shrubs with fleshy or succulent leaves. Species are widespread in southern Africa.

Distribution

Occurs mainly in the tropics and subtropics. Southern Africa is regarded the centre of diversity for this family with the highest diversity along the Namaqualand coast.

Number of genera in the world

ca. 16

Number of species in the world

ca. 120

Number of genera in the Flora of southern Africa region

10

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Number of species in the Flora of southern Africa region

107

Well-known southern African genera

Adenogramma, Hypertelis, Limeum, Mollugo, Pharnaceum, Psammotropha.

Growth forms

Mostly herbs and dwarf shrubs.

Habitats

Mostly found in sandy places in arid areas.

Flagship species

Hypertelis salsoloides (haassuring [A]) is a frequently encountered species along the Namaqualand coast where it is specifically adapted to saline conditions, but it is also widespread over the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape provinces and Namibia where it is found in dry situations. It grows in sandy and brackish places and is abundant in disturbed areas. The blue-green succulent leaves and pink to white flowers make this an attractive little plant. The leaves have a sour taste and are eaten by domesticated animals but seldom by wild animals.

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Significance of the family

This family is of little economic value. Many species have a 'weedy' nature and frequently invade disturbed places. Some species are important forage plants. The young leaves and stems of Glinus lotoides are used as a vegetable. Glinus and Mollugo are also used in traditional medicine. Limeum africanum is highly palatable and an indicator of well-managed veld. (Photo: HV).

Diagnostic characters

Leaves opposite, whorled or alternate without stipules or with membranous stipules. Flowers mostly small , regular  with (4)5, green-white, sometimes pink or red, but usually white petaloid sepals . Stamens 5-10, free . Ovary superior with several locules; styles as many as locules. Fruit a capsule . (Photo  : HV).

Did you know?

On the Galapagos Islands Mollugo is one of the first plants to establish on a bare lava field.