As a genus, it contains species which show a developmental progression from C3photosynthesis to C4 photosynthesis. This, combined with its being a Brassicaceae (and therefore closely related to the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana), make it an ideal genus in which to study how C4 photosynthesis occurs and how it evolved. Morphological differences that demonstrate the transition from C3 to C4 include C3 species having more veins and larger bundle sheath cells. Also, proteins present in species such as Cleome gynandra are needed for C4 photosynthesis.
Species of Cleome are commonly known as spider flowers, spider plants, spider weeds, or bee plants.
^Marshall, D.M., Muhaidat, R., Brown, N.J., Liu, Z., Stanley, S., Griffiths, H.G., Sage, R.F., Hibberd, J.M. (2007) Cleome, a genus closely related to Arabidopsis, contains species spanning a developmental progression from C3 to C4 photosynthesis. Plant Journal, 51: 886-896