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Plant Families

There are hundreds of different specialty crop plants grown. All plants have similar parts that are important to their survival. But many times, the plant parts look different. Plant scientists look for patterns in how these plant parts look and have created groups called families. Farmers use plant families to understand the growing needs of plants. Then they can provide the right soil, sunlight, and moisture so the plant will grow strong and healthy.

Three Plant Family Examples:

plantfam-gourd.jpg

Gourd Family: Cucurbitaceae

Examples: gourds, watermelon, squash, pumpkins

Characteristics include:

  • Yellow or white flowers
  • Stems are usually hairy, and contain tendrils
plantfam-rose.jpg

Rose Family: Rosaceae

Examples: Rose, pears, plum, raspberry, strawberry

Characteristics include:

  • Flowers with petals in multiples of 5, like 5, 10, or 15
  • Most plants in this family produce a fleshy fruit — rose hips, pears, cherries, etc.
plantfam-potato.jpg

Potato Family: Solanacae

Examples: Potatoes, eggplant, peppers, petunias

Characteristics include:

  • Flower petals that are fused together, not separate
  • Seeds are held in a berry or capsule

Activity: Matching: Plant Family to Specialty Crop

Use the characteristics listed above for each family, and the pictures on this page, to help match the plant family to its specialty crop.

To which family does the tomato belong?

plantfam-tomatoblossom.jpg

To which family does the cucumber belong?

plantfam-cucumberblossom.jpg

To which family does the apple belong?

plantfam-appleblossom.jpg

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