Renato de Mello-Silva
Universidade de São Paulo (USP), São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Herbs and shrubs, from few centimetres (Vellozia abietina Mart., V. minima Pohl) to more than 6 meters (V. gigantea N.L.Menezes & Mello-Silva), normally from 30 cm to 2 m tall; stems sparsely branched, c. 1-2 cm diameter, covered by persistent leaf sheaths and adventitious roots and, frequently, also by old marcescent leaves so that they can reach 50 cm diam. Leaves tristichous or spirotristichous, from few centimetres to almost 1 m long, located at the branch apices; leaf sheaths developed; leaf blades deciduous by abscission line at the top of the sheath, or marcescent and reflexed with age. Inflorescences terminal, fasciculate, with one to some flowers (to 12 in Barbacenia polyantha Goeth. & Henrard and to 15 in Vellozia tubiflora Kunth); flowers often large and showy, actinomorphic, monoclinous, rarely diclinous (Barbaceniopsis L.B.Sm.); hypanthium normally longer than ovary, frequently elongated into a tube, smooth or with glandular or non-glandular emergences; tepals six, mostly violet, pink or sometimes white or, very rarely, yellow in Vellozia, red, orange, yellow, white, green or violet in Barbacenia Vand. or violet, white or yellow in Barbaceniopsis; corona present (Barbacenia); stamens 6 (Barbacenia and Barbaceniopsis) or 6-76 (Vellozia); filaments free (Vellozia and very few Barbacenia) or anthers attached to the corona (most Barbacenia) or to the hypanthium (some Barbacenia, Barbaceniopsis); lacerate staminal appendages often present in Vellozia; pollen in monads (Barbacenia, Barbaceniopsis, Vellozia plicata Mart.), in tetrads (Vellozia) or in polyads (V. andina Ibisch, R.Vásquez & Nowicke); ovary inferior, usually longer than broad, rarely hemispheric, tricarpelar, trilocular, placentation axile, septal nectaries conspicuous; stigmas peltate -trilobed (Vellozia); capitate, clavate, linear or subapical (Barbacenia), or subulate (Barbaceniopsis); capsules loculicidal, poricidal or costulate; seeds small, numerous.
Notes on delimitation
- There are no problems of delimitation with the Neotropical Velloziaceae but, recently, a genus from China, Acanthochlamys P.C.Kao, has been included in the family, broadening its delimitation and distribution.
Distribution in the Neotropics
- Barbacenia: Brazil (mainly Central/Eastern), Venezuela.
- Barbaceniopsis: Argentina, Bolivia, Peru.
- Vellozia: Bolivia, Brazil (mainly Central/Eastern), Colombia, Guyana, Venezuela, Panama.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
- Slender stem covered by adventitious roots and either persistent leaf sheaths or entire marcescent leaves.
- Inferior ovary.
- Showy flowers.
Other important characters
Key differences from similar families
- The Velloziaceae are quite distinct from every other family.
- The stem could resemble that of some Agavaceae, Dracaenaceae or Pandanaceae, but in those families it is not covered by adventitious roots along with either persistent leaf sheaths or entire marcescent leaves.
- Some Bromeliaceae and few Cyperaceae could present a stem like that of the Velloziaceae, but those families, as well as the Agavaceae, Dracaenaceae and Pandanaceae, have conspicuous inflorescences.
Number of genera
- Barbacenia (c. 100 species)
- Barbaceniopsis (4 species)
- Vellozia (c. 100 species)
Useful tips for generic identification
Key to genera of Neotropical Velloziaceae
Notable genera and distinguishing features
- Barbacenia: abscission line between sheath and lamina absent; flowers monoclinous; tepals mostly yellow, orange, red or greenish, rarely violet, corona present; stamens six; style longer than stigmas, stigmas vertical, fused at apex or free; pollen in monads.
- Barbaceniopsis: abscission line between sheath and lamina absent; flowers diclinous; tepals white, yellow or violet, corona absent; stamens six; style shorter than stigmas, stigmas vertical, fused at apex; pollen in monads.
- Vellozia: abscission line between sheath and lamina present or absent; flowers monoclinous; tepals almost always violet, sometimes white, very rarely yellow, corona absent; stamens sometimes six, rarely nine or 12, almost always more than 12; style longer than stigmas, stigmas horizontal, fused at center; pollen in monads (one species), in tetrads or in polyads (one species).
- All genera are endemic.
- There are five other genera commonly cited among the Neotropical Velloziaceae. Aylthonia N.L.Menezes, Burlemarxia N.L.Menezes & J.Semir and Pleurostima Raf., dismembered from Barbacenia, are not monophyletic and not accepted. Nanuza L.B.Sm. & Ayensu is sister to Vellozia s.s. and has been merged into it. Xerophyta Juss. is endemic to Africa.
Behnke, H.-D., Treutlein, J., Wink, M., Kramer, K., Schneider, C. & Kao, P.C. 2000. Systematics and evolution of Velloziaceae, with special reference to sieve-element plastids and rbcL sequence data. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 134: 93-129.
Henrard, J.T. 1937. Velloziaceae americanae nonnulae novae vel minus cognitae. Blumea 2: 339-384.
Ibisch, P.L., Nowick, C., Vásquez, R. & Koch, K. 2001. Taxonomy and biology of Andean Velloziaceae: Vellozia andina sp. nov. and notes on Barbaceniopsis (including Barbaceniopsis castillonii comb. nov.). Systematic Botany 26(1): 5-16.
Kubitzki, K. 1998. Velloziaceae. In: Kubitzki, K. (ed), The families and genera of vascular plants. Flowering plants, Monocotyledons, Lilianae (except Orchidaceae). Vol. 3, pp. 459-467. Springer Verlag. Berlin.
Mello-Silva, R. 1991. The infra-familial taxonomic circumscription of the Velloziaceae: A historical and critical analysis. Taxon 40: 45-51.
Mello-Silva, R. 2004. Velloziaceae. In Smith, N., S.A. Mori, A. Henderson, D.W. Stevenson & S.V. Heald (eds.), Flowering plants of the neotropics. Pp. 490-491. Princeton University Press. Princeton.
Mello-Silva, R. 2005. Morphological analysis, phylogenies and classification in Velloziaceae. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 148(2): 157-173.
Menezes, N.L. 1971. New taxa and new combination in Velloziaceae. Ciência e Cultura 23(3): 421-422.
Menezes, N.L. 1980. Re-establishment of genus Pleurostima Rafinesque (Velloziaceae). Revista Brasileira de Botânica 3: 37-47.
Menezes, N.L., Mello-Silva, R. & Mayo, S.J. 1994. A cladistic analysis of the Velloziaceae. Kew Bulletim 49(1): 71-92.
Menezes, N.L. & Semir, J. 1991. Burlemarxia, a new genus of Velloziaceae. Taxon 40: 413-426.
Salatino, A., Salatino, M.L.F., Mello-Silva, R., Sluys, M.-A., Giannasi, D.E. & Price R.A. 2001. Phylogenetic inference in Velloziaceae using chloroplast trnL-F sequences. Systematic Botany 26(1): 92-103.
Smith, L. B. 1962. A synopsis of the American Velloziaceae. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 35(4): 251-292, pl. 1-12.
Smith, L.B. & Ayensu, E.S. 1976. A revision of American Velloziaceae. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 30: i-viii, 1-172.
How to cite
Mello-Silva, R. (2009). Neotropical Velloziaceae. 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/Velloziaceae.htm.
Click images to enlarge
Barbacenia graminifolia © William Milliken/RBG Kew.
Barbacenia reflexa: A. habit; B. leaf apex, adaxial side; C. leaf margin, abaxial side; D. flower; E. emergences of hypanthium at ovary region; F. covering of hypanthium at tube region; G. external tepal, abaxial side; H. external tepal apex, adaxial side; I. internal tepal, abaxial side; J. internal tepal apex, adaxial side; L. corona showing three lobes and two anthers; M. corona lobe, abaxial side, with anther; N. style apex with stigmas; O. fruit with hypanthium remains. © Renato de Mello-Silva.
Barbacenia riparia: A. habitat; B. leaf apex, abaxial side; C. flower, longitudinal section; D. extrnal tepal apex, adaxial side; E. external tepal, adaxial side, with corona lobe and anther; F. internal tepal, adaxial side, with corona lobe and anther; G. corona lobe in longitudinal section, showing anther insertion; H. style with three lateral stigmas; I. fruit before dehiscence. © Renato de Mello-Silva.
Barbacenia umbrosa: A. habitat; B. leaf apex, adaxial side; C. leaf margin, abaxial side; D. flower; E. emergences of hypanthium at ovary region; F. emergences of hypanthium at tube region; G. external tepal, abaxial side; H. external tepal apex, adaxial side; I. internal tepal, abaxial side; J. internal tepal apex, adaxial side; L. corona showing three lobes and two anthers; M. corona lobe, abaxial side, with anther; N. style apex with stigmas; O. fruit with flower remains. © Renato de Mello-Silva.
Flower of Barbacenia sp. © Peter Gasson, RBG, Kew.
Flower of Vellozia sp. © Denise Sasaki, Programa Flora Cristalino.
Vellozia albiflora: A. habitat with flower; B. leaf apex, adaxial side; C-E. leaf margin, abaxial side; F. emergences of hypanthium; G. external tepal, abaxial side; H. internal tepal, adaxial side, with stamens; I.style apex with stigmas; J. fruit with hypanthium remains; L. fruit without hypanthium remains. © Renato de Mello-Silva.
Vellozia caruncularis © William Milliken/RBG Kew.
Vellozia glabra © William Milliken/RBG Kew.
Vellozia marcescens: A, B. habitat; C. leaf apex, abaxial side; D. leaf apex, adaxial side; E. leaf margin, abaxial side; F. emergences of hypanthium; G. external tepal, adaxial side, with stamens; H. internal tepal, adaxial side, with stamens; I. stamens base with staminal appendages; J. fruit; L. style apex with stigmas © Renato de Mello-Silva.
Vellozia seubertiana © Daniela Zappi/Programa Flora Cristalino.
Vellozia spiralis: A. habit; B. stem with flower; C. D. leaf margin, abaxial side; E. leaf apex, adaxial side; F. fruit. © Renato de Mello-Silva.
Vellozia tubiflora © William Milliken/RBG Kew.