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What is Caryophyllaceae?

By Bobbie Fredericks
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Caryophyllaceae is a large family of around 2000 species of flowering plants. It is sometimes called the pink family, since that is the most common color of the flowers. Many common garden plants are included in this species, including carnations, sweet william, and baby's breath, as well as weeds, such as chickweed and pearlwort. The plants in this family thrive in chalky soil. Flowers are typically pink, white, or red, but other colors can occur as the result of breeding.

Carnations have been popular as decoration for centuries, and ancient Greeks and Romans used them for garlands and art. They have large, beautiful blooms that are two to three inches across. These flowers can last up to three weeks after being cut. Carnations are available in white, pink, green, purple, yellow, and various striped colors. Miniature carnations are also available, which are one to two inches across.

Sweet william is another popular member of the caryophyllaceae family. These flowers have a sweet scent and live for up to ten days after being cut. Colors include varying shades of red, pink, and white. The flowers are edible, and are sometimes used as a pain reliever.

Baby's breath is a member of the caryophyllaceae family and is popular as an accent for bouquets, arrangements, and corsages. This plant consists of many stem branches and tiny flowers that can be either white or pink. Baby's breath lasts up to seven days after being cut. In some regions, baby's breath is considered a difficult weed. Its roots are persistent, making it hard to get rid of in places it is unwanted.

Another caryophyllaceae family member is chickweed, and got its name because it is a favorite food of chickens. These plants are three to eight inches tall, with paired leaves and small white flowers. It can be cooked, and tastes somewhat like spinach. Chickweed is said to treat various conditions including constipation, diarrhea, cough, and kidney problems. When applied to the skin, it is said to heal wounds.

Pearlwort is another weed in the caryophyllaceae family. This weed is sometimes mistaken for moss because of its green color and thin, grass-like tendrils. Small white or green flowers bloom in the summer. Pearlwort is considered a troublesome weed to some and is best removed by slicing off the top, although regrowth can occur if any is left behind. Others plant it in gardens to add greenery.

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