Morphology, Anatomy and Histochemistry of Salicornioideae (Chenopodiaceae) Fruits and Seeds

Kelly Shepherd, T.D. Macfarlane, Tim Colmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims The subfamily Salicornioideae (Chenopodiaceae) are a taxonomically difficult group largely due to the lack of diagnostic characters available to delineate tribal- and generic-level boundaries; a consequence of their reduced floral and vegetative features. This study examined the variation in fruits and seeds across both tribes of the Salicornioideae to assess if characters support traditional taxonomic sections.Methods Light microscopy, environmental scanning electron microscopy and anatomical ultra-thin sectioning were employed to examine variation in fruits and seeds. Sixty-eight representatives across 14 of the 15 genera currently recognized within the tribes Halopeplideae and Salicornieae, were examined to determine whether characters support current taxonomic groups.Key Results Characters such as seed coat structure, embryo shape, seed orientation, the forms of seed storage proteins and carbohydrates show variation within the Salicornioideae and may be phylogenetically useful. The campylotropous ovule typical of the Chenopodiaceae generally results in a curved embryo; however, many Halosarcia and Sclerostegia species have straight embryos and in Salicornia and Sarcocornia the large peripheral embryo appears bent rather than curved. Seed coat ornamentation of Microcnemum and Arthrocnemum is distinct from other Salicornioideae as the elongated epidermal cells of the exotesta have convex walls. Histochemical stains of anatomical sections of cotyledon cells showed protein bodies were variable in shape, and starch grains were present in some species, namely Salicornia bigelovii, S. europaea and Allenrolfea occidentalis.Conclusions While fruits and seeds were found to be variable within the subfamily, no synapomorphic characters support the tribe Halopeplideae as these genera have crustaceous seed coats, curved embryos and abundant perisperm; features characteristic of many of the tribe Salicornieae. The endemic Australian genera are closely related and few seed and fruit characters are diagnostic at the generic level. Nineteen characters identified as being potentially informative will be included in future phylogenetic analyses of the subfamily.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-933
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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