Species in the birthwort family are perennial herbs or lianas (i.e., woody, climbing plants) with typically broad leaves and red, purple, or brown flowers tucked between the stem and the petiole of the leaf. The stems may grow upright, along the ground, or climb up other vegetation. The flowers are bisexual and have petal-like sepals that are sometimes maroon-colored to mimic carrion. The sepals number 3 per flower and may be actinomorphic (radially symmetrical) or zygomorphic (bilaterally symmetrical). New England species have either 6 or 12 stamens; these are fused to the styles, forming a single structure. Our species have an ovary positioned below the sepals with 4-6 united carpels. The fruit is a dry capsule that releases its seeds when ripe.
This Family’s Genera in New England:
Visit this family in the Dichotomous Key