Fay, Michael F. Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom.
Chase, Mark W. Molecular Systematics Section, Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Surrey, United Kingdom.
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A large, widespread order of petaloid monocotyledons consisting of 29 families and about 26,000 species. Asparagales are clearly circumscribed in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence analyses but are difficult to define morphologically, and separation from Liliales has proved particularly problematic. Phytomelan, a dark seedcoat pigment present in most families of Asparagales but not found in other plants, is an obvious characteric of this order, although seeds of the largest family, Orchidaceae, and a few other taxa lack phytomelan. Most Asparagales are herbaceous perennials, but there are some vines including some species of asparagus (Asparagaceae), and woody taxa including aloes (Asphodelaceae). The order contains many horticultural taxa, including members of Orchidaceae (orchids), Amaryllidaceae (daffodils, belladonna lilies, and others), Iridaceae (irises, gladiolus, freesias), Convallariaceae (lily of the valley, Solomon's seal), and Hemerocallidaceae (daylilies), in addition to food crops including onions, leeks, and garlic (Alliaceae). See also: Flower; Liliidae; Liliopsida; Magnoliophyta; Orchid; Orchidales; Plant kingdom
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