Perennial herbs or subshrubs, prostrate to erect or scandent, trichotomously branched. Leaves opposite or partly alternate, ovate or elliptic-lanceolate, entire. Inflorescences axillary and terminal, sessile to long-pedunculate, bracteate heads or spikes or broad, lax, panicles; bracts persistent, finally spreading or deflexed. Flowers bisexual, solitary in axils of bracts; bracteoles 2, falling with fruit. Tepals 5, free, inner 2 with broader hyaline margin than outer 2, with central intermediate, sometimes gibbous at base, usually pubescent on outer surface. Stamens 5, shortly monadelphous at base, without or rarely with small alternating pseudostaminodes; anthers 2-thecous. Ovary subglobose or oblong in outline; ovule solitary, suspended from a long, basal funicle; style slender but rather short; stigma bifid or capitate. Capsule thin-walled, indehiscent, enclosed in hardened base of perianth. Seed smooth, lenticular, brownish.
Species +/- 18, mostly in tropical Africa, also in tropical Asia; 1 in sthn Afr.: Psilotrichum scleranthum Thwaites (= P. africanum Oliv.), Northern Province and KwaZulu-Natal.
Annual or perennial herbs or subshrubs, often trichotomously branched, sometimes scandent. Leaves opposite, broad, entire, petiolate. Inflorescence a spiciform bracteate thyrse, terminal on stem and branches, each bract subtending a partial inflorescence of 1-more fertile bisexual flowers which are subtended on each side by modified sterile flowers formed of 3-more stalked clusters of hooked spines; bracts persistent, finally +/- deflexed, entire; partial inflorescence falling as a burr in fruit. Tepals 5, free, lanceolate, shortly mucronate, loosely woolly. Stamens 5; filaments linear, connate at base around ovary; pseudostaminodes 0; anthers 2-thecous. Ovary subglobose; ovule solitary, pendulous, basal; style slender; stigma capitate. Capsule thin-walled, irregularly ruptured below firm apex by developing seed. Seed oblong-ovoid or ovoid, black, slightly compressed; perisperm/endosperm copious. x= 10 (13) (high polyploidy) .
Species 4, tropics of Old World from Africa to Malaysia and the Philippines; 2 in sthn Afr., Namibia, Botswana, the northern provinces, Swaziland, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern and Eastern Cape.
Sericocoma Fenzl subgen. Eurotia Schinz: 183 (1895) in key, and subgen. Eusericocoma Schinz: 183 (1895), in part.
Glabrous or hairy herbs or subshrubs. Leaves opposite or partly alternate, linear, oblong or occasionally obovate, sessile, entire. Inflorescences terminal heads or spiciform, 1 or 2 flowers together with 1-more flowers reduced to spines, bracteate. Flowers all bisexual, solitary in axils of bracts; bracteoles 2, falling with fruit. Tepals 5, connate at base, coriaceous or chartaceous, ovate or oblong-lanceolate, long-pilose, subequal, outer not long-aristate. Stamens 5, shortly connate below; pseudostaminodes minute 0; anthers 2-thecous. Ovary +/- ovoid, woolly or tomentose; ovule solitary, suspended from apex of elongated funicle; style slender; stigma capitate. Capsule thin-walled, included in perianth, membranous, indehiscent. Seed compressed; embryo annular.
Species 3, confined to sthn Afr., dry parts of Namibia, Northern, Western and Eastern Cape.
Much-branched, erect, annual or perennial herbs. Leaves alternate or occasionally opposite, linear to oblong, sessile, entire. Inflorescences elongated, bracteate, spike-like thyrses; each bract with 1-more central bisexual flowers and 2-more lateral sterile modified flowers, each formed of an accrescent, finally spinous-margined process, fused with indurate base of partial inflorescence so that the whole falls as a unit (a burr) complete with bracteoles; bracts persistent on inflorescence axis. Tepals 5, narrow, 3-nerved, +/- pilose or floccose, connate at base, acuminate or pungent. Stamens 5; filaments slender, connate below; pseudostaminodes 0; anthers narrow, 2-thecous, each theca with an awn-like tail at each end. Ovary +/- compressed, villous or glabrous; ovule solitary, erect; style very short; stigma with a tuft of whitish penicillate hairs. Capsule scarcely compressed, with a firm apex, delicate below, thin-walled, indehiscent. Seed +/- horseshoe-shaped, compressed, brown, smooth and shining; perisperm/endosperm copious.
Species 2, both in sthn Afr., widespread in warm arid regions, Namibia, Botswana, Northern Province, North-West, Free State and Northern Cape.
Trees, dioecious, glabrous. Leaves alternate, imparipinnate; leaflets entire, falcately narrowly ovate. Flowers in axillary panicles. Male flowers: calyx 4- or 5-lobed; petals 4 or 5; stamens 7-10; ovary vestigeal. Female flowers: disc saucer-shaped, with somewhat crenate rim; staminodes conspicuous; ovary 1(2)-locular, 1 locule often reduced, +/- ellipsoid, with thick walls, with a solitary, pendulous ovule; styles 4 or 5, separate, with truncate stigmas. Fruit a fleshy drupe with bony endocarp; stone 1(2)-locular with 1 operculum per locule, concealed by ridges. Seeds reniform, flattened.
Species 1: Harpephyllum caffrum Bernh., sthn Afr.: Northern Province, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape; in riverine forests.
Shrublets, sometimes with prostrate branches, usually with woody rootstock. Leaves entire to faintly toothed. Inflorescence axillary, spicate, dense, unilateral; bracts sometimes spinescent; bracteoles 0. Calyx irregular, 2-lipped, pilose; upper lip 3-fid; lower lip 2-fid; tube shorter than lobes. Corolla subregular; lobes 5, triangular; aestivation induplicate; tube longer than lobes, +/- funnel-shaped, with reflexed hairs inside and outside. Androecium: fertile stamens 4, didynamous; filaments arising in pairs in upper part of corolla tube, scarcely longer than anthers, included, bifurcate; upper pair of anthers 2-thecous; lower pair monothecous or with rudimentary second theca; thecae parallel, ciliate, muticous; staminodes 0. Pollen spheroidal, 3-colporate; surface foveolate. Disc annular. Gynoecium: ovary oblong in outline, with 2, or occasionally 1, ovules in each locule; style terete, included; stigma with a single flattened lobe, longer than broad. Capsule ovoid, compressed, with beak, estipitate, with inelastic placental bases. Seeds discoid, with hygroscopic hairs over whole surface.
Species +/- 20, Africa, Arabian Peninsula to India; 1 in sthn Afr.: Neuracanthusafricanus S.Moore, Northern Province.
Shrublets or procumbent, perennial herbs. Leaves varying from ovate to linear. Inflorescence axillary, scorpioid or dichasial cymes, with few to many flowers; lower bracts present or 0, ultimate 2 bracts large, enclosing calyx. Calyx regular, glandular; lobes 4 or 5, when 4 then anticous one usually bifid or 2-toothed and lateral ones smaller; tube shorter than lobes. Corolla +/- 2-lipped; upper lip 2-lobed; lower lip 3-lobed, with palate transversely ribbed and furnished with retrorse hairs; lobes obovate, obtuse or emarginate; aestivation contorted; rugula indistinct; tube longer than lobes, straight or curved, usually cylindric below and campanulate above. Androecium: fertile stamens 4, didynamous, arising at +/- middle of corolla tube, included; filaments arising in pairs, broadly linear; anthers 2-thecous; thecae parallel, muticous or mucronate at base; staminodes 0. Pollen prolate, 3-porate, with pseudocolpi; pore lipped; surface reticulate. Disc annular. Gynoecium: ovary with 2 ovules in each locule; style terete, pubescent; style branches 2, equal, cylindriform. Capsule estipitate, compressed, narrowed at base and apex, with elastic placental bases. Seeds orbicular, with hygroscopic hairs over whole surface. x = 8 (polyploidy).
Species +/- 35, Africa to India; 28 in sthn Afr., mainly Namibia, Bo- tswana and arid northern and western parts of South Africa.