Stegnosperma is a genus of flowering plants, consisting of three species of woody plants, native to the Caribbean, Central America, and the Sonoran Desert. These are shrubs or lianas, with anomalous secondary thickening in mature stems, by successive cambia.
Leaves are alternate, entire, 2-5 cm in length, tapering at both ends. Flowers are small (5-8 mm), five-merous, with white petal-like sepals, and a superior ovary. They are arranged in short racemes, usually no more than 10 cm long, shorter in S. watsonii. The fruit is a capsule 5-8 mm in diameter: it contains small (2-3 mm) black seeds with a conspicuous reddish aril.
The genus has commonly been treated as belonging to the family Phytolaccaceae, but the APG system and APG II system, of 2003, regard it as the sole genus of its own family, the Stegnospermataceae and assign it to the order Caryophyllales in the clade core eudicots
Turner et al. suggest that S. halimifolium Bentham and S. watsonii D.J. Rogers are actually the same species, observing that specimens from the gulf coast of Sonora have intermediate characteristics. Whether one species or two, they are locally common all along the Gulf of California, where they are found on the coastal strand and some inland washes, always at low elevations (less than 600 m).
A report in German literature from the 19th century indicated that native shamans used an extract of the root to cure rabies.
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- Raymond M. Turner, Janice E. Bowers, and Tony L. Burgess, Sonoran Desert Plants: an Ecological Atlas (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1995) pp. 373–375
- Stegnospermataceae in L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, information retrieval. Version: 30 May 2006. http://delta-intkey.com
- NCBI Taxonomy Browser
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