Begonia Family

Philip Wright, Jan Goodwin, Roger Spencer

Mostly perennial herbs with fleshy, jointed stems, occasionally shrubs or climbers. Rootstock mostly a rhizome or tuber, sometimes fibrous. Leaves mostly simple, occasionally palmately lobed or compound, alternate, often in 2 ranks, usually asymmetrical at the base; stipules unequal, large, membranous, often soon shed. Flowers unisexual with free, mostly petal-like segments (in Begonia). Male flowers with (2)4 petal-like segments in two opposite pairs, the stamens are numerous, free or united. Female flowers with 2-5 segments. Carpels 2-3(-6) united. Ovary inferior, usually 3-chambered and with 3 wings; ovules numerous with axile placentation; stigmas usually twisted. Fruit mostly a winged capsule containing numerous seeds.

The family contains only 3 genera: Begonia is well known to horticulture and contains almost all the species; Hillebrandia has a single species, H. sandwicensis that is native to Hawaii; Symbegonia, is endemic to Papua New Guinea and has 12 species.

In the Moluccas leaves of B. tuberosa are eaten as a vegetable, other species are used medicinally.

Plants generally recognised by their ornamental leaves that are divided by the main vein into 2 unequal parts; flowers unisexual, often showy in bright colours; ovary inferior with twisted stigmas; fruit and ovary 3-winged.

3 genera and over 1600 species, subspecies and varieties (with many species still to be described) from tropical and subtropical regions, almost all in the genus Begonia and with a centre of distribution in northern S America.

Source: Wright, P.; Goodwin, J.; Spencer, R. (1997). Begoniaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Rosanae
order      Cucurbitales
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
genus        Begonia L.
species        Begonia arborescens