Hiltje Maas-van de Kamer and Paul J.M. Maas
National Herbarium, Wageningen University Branch, the Netherlands.
Myco-heterotrophic ("saprophytic"), small herbs without chlorophyll; root system tuberous or rarely cylindrical, roots filiform, glabrous; stems unbranched. Leaves (2-)4, alternate, sessile, simple, entire, scale-like, sometimes forming a rosette just below the flower. Flowers terminal, solitary, 5-20 mm long, bisexual, actinomorphic to sometimes zygomorphic, the cylindric to urceolate floral tube with a circular throat, surrounded by an ornamented annulus; tepals 6, forming 2 whorls each of different shape and size, sometimes connate into a miter; stamens 6, pendent, often alternating with 6 interstaminal lobes, filaments short, anthers dithecal, extrorse, longitudinally dehiscent, connective dilated; perianth basallly circumscissile; style 1, cylindrical, much shorter than the floral tube, 3-branched, each branch bearing a stigma, or unbranched with 1 capitate stigma; ovary inferior, 1-locular with 3 parietal placentas or with 3 placental columns in the center, septal nectaries absent. Fruit cup-shaped, fleshy, crowned by a rim formed by the persistent basal part of the floral tube, dehiscent by withering of the wall. Seeds many, small and "dustlike", (narrowly) ellipsoid to ovoid.
Notes on delimitation
- Formerly placed in Burmanniaceae (see Merckx, 2008).
Distribution in the Neotropics
- Thismiaceae: from Costa Rica in the North to Bolivia and SE Brazil in the South; absent in the West Indian Islands.
- Tiputinia P.E.Berry & C.L.Woodw. - Ecuador.
- Thismia Griff. - from Costa Rica in the North to Bolivia and SE Brazil in the South; absent in the West Indian Islands.
Other important characters
- Flowers sometimes zygomophic; one of the whorls of tepals often provided with long and filiform appendages, sometimes with a swollen top (osmophores?).
Key differences from similar families
Formerly placed in Burmanniaceae from which it differs by having:
- Circumscissile perianth.
- 6 pendent (instead of 3 erect) stamens.
- Short style far exceeded by the floral tube.
Number of genera
- 2 genera: Thismia (12 spp.) and Tiputinia (1 sp.).
Useful tips for generic identification
Key to genera of the Neotropical Thismiaceae
Notable genera and distinguishing features
- Thismiaceae are very much undercollected in the Neotropics and of most species (except for the quite common Thismia panamensis (Standl.) Jonker) only 1 collection has been known. Two species from the Alto Macahe (in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) were only collected once each in 1889.
Maas, P.J.M., H. Maas-van de Kamer, J. van Benthem, H.C.M. Snelders, and T. Rübsamnen. 1986. Burmanniaceae. Flora Neotropica 42: 1-189 (but particularly 142-189).
Merckx, V. 2008. Myco-heterotrophy in Dioscoreales. Systematics and Evolution. pp. 1-217. Leuven, Belgium.
How to cite
Maas-van de Kamer, H. & Maas, P.J.M. (2009). Neotropical Thismiaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics. http://www.kew.org/science/tropamerica/neotropikey/families/Thismiaceae.htm.