Plant Families

It is really interesting to know the families that individual plants belong to as it shows how different plants are related and how they evolved. It isn't necessary to use the family name when referring to an individual plant, but can help to gain an understanding of the plant. With increasing knowledge, plants have been moved to different family groups and families have been divided or changed. Increasing knowledge of plant genetics is playing a large role in this. Some of the important plant families which include alpine plants are described below.


Alliaceae, The Onion Family

Alliaceae is a family of herbaceous monocots (monocotyledons). The plants are generally perennial but not evergreen, with narrow strap shaped leaves. Bulbs or corms may be formed that allow the plants to survive in a dormant condition until the next growing season. The flowers are usually ball or umbel shaped. Allium is a major genus belonging to this family.

Allium lusitanicum

Asteraceae, The Daisy Family

This large and important family of eudicots (eudicotyledons) used to be called Compositae. This is due to the flower heads which look as if they are just one flower, but are in fact a head of many flowers, or composite. The flower head functions as a large single flower and is excellent at attracting pollinators. The individual florets or small flowers are sometimes of two different types, ray florets and disc florets. The ray florets are in a ring on the outside and look like typical petals.

Asteraceae may be herbaceous or woody. Genera belonging to this family include Aster and Chrysanthemum.

Aster alpinus Trimix

Amaryllidaceae, The Daffodil Family

Amaryllidaceae is a family of herbaceous monocots (monocotyledons) that are usually bulbous. The plants have narrow strap shaped leaves. They often have an adaptation for surviving a dry season, such as bulbs. Genera belonging to this family include Narcissus, Ipheion and Galanthus.

Ipheion 'Alberto Castillo'

Asparagaceae, Asparagus Family

This is a very diverse family of monocotyledons. The plants are linked by genetics and evolution, but similarities between genera aren't always as obvious as some of the other families.

The family is named after Asparagus, but includes the genus Muscari. 

Muscari armeniacum 'Siberian Tiger'

Campanulaceae, The Bellflower Family

This is a family of eudicots which are mainly herbaceous. The flowers have five petals which are usually joined to form a cup shape. Campanula is an important genus which has bell shaped flowers which are blue or sometimes white.


Caryophyllaceae, The Carnation Family

A large family of eudicots with flowers generally having five sepals and five petals. The petals are often split at the end. Silene and Saponaria belong to this family.

Silene maritima

Crassulaceae, The Stonecrop Family

All plants in this family are succulents. They are eudicots with four or five petals, and four or five sepals. The family includes Sedum, Sempervivum, Echeveria and Rhodiola.

Sempervivum 'Bronco'

Iridaceae, The Iris Family

This is a family of monocots, which usually have storage organs. The flowers have six tepals and long strappy leaves. Iris, Romulea, Sisyrinchium and Crocus belong to this family.

Romulea bulbocodium

Primulaceae, The Primrose Family

This family includes Primula and Cyclamen. It is a family of eudicots which usually have flowers with five petals, five sepals and five stamens.

Primula auricula

Ranunculaceae, The Buttercup Family

This is one of the more primitive plant families, being an early branch of eudicots. It includes Ranunculus, Aquilegia and Pulsatilla.

Pulsatilla vulgaris

Rosaceae, The Rose Family

Rosaeceae is a large family of eudicots with flowers generally having five sepals, five petals and numerous stamens. The family includes Alchemilla and Potentilla.

Potentilla x tonguei

  • Potentilla toungei.JPG
  • Potentilla tonguei

Saxifragaceae, The Saxifrage Family

This is a family of eudicots which generally have four or five petals and four or five sepals. It is a family of herbaceous plants, with the largest genus being Saxifraga.

Saxifraga 'Dr. Ramsey'