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  • Balsaminaceae A.Rich.

This family is accepted.


Taylor, N. & Zappi, D. (2009). Neotropical Balsaminaceae.


Herbaceous, semi- succulent , erect , glabrous plants, never woody . Leaves generally petiolate , with two distal glands , venation pinnate , margin entire to variously crenate or dentate , leaf-blades fleshy when alive, drying membranaceous; stipules absent. Inflorescences of axillary small cymes or fascicles, or flowers solitary. Flowers hermaphrodite , with bilateral symmetry , hypogynous, calyx (3-)5- merous , lobes fused and forming a nectar -secreting spur, corolla 5- merous , lobes fused, showy, brightly coloured, white, pink, salmon, red or mauve; stamens 5, minute, filaments and anthers connate into a calyptra above gynoecium , anthers dehiscing longitudinally; ovary superior , 5-locular, with many ovules with axillary placentation. Fruita fleshy capsule , opening by explosive longitudinal dehiscence with valves curling up, 10-20-seeded; seeds generally rounded , testa smooth, matt, brown, embryo straight, endosperm lacking or little.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Introduced into the Neotropics, represented by a single species, Impatiens walleriana Hook. f., very widespread in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil and known as 'Maria Sem Vergonha'. Other species cultivated as ornamentals.
Notable genera and distinguishing features


Other important characters
  • Plants herbaceous.
  • Semi-succulent.
  • Stemtranslucent.
  • Flowers showy with bilateral symmetry.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Filaments and anthers fused over gynoecium forming a calyptra.
  • Capsule explosively dehiscent with valves curling up.
Key differences from similar families
  • Differs from Begoniaceae by hermaphrodite flowers and symmetric leaves.
  • From many other herbaceous plants by the particular arrangement of its stamens over the gynoecium, which apparently avoids self-pollination.
General Description
  • A few species cultivated in gardens, I. walleriana naturalized in Eastern Brazil.
Notes on delimitation
  • Placed within the Ericales, together with Marcgraviaceae (APG II, 2003).
Number of genera
  • 1: Impatiens L.
Important literature

APG II, 2003. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 141(4): 399-436.


Balsaminaceae, E. Launert. Flora Zambesiaca 2:1. 1963

Herbs, often with a suffrutescent habit, sometimes epiphytic, sometimes aquatic, glabrous or with an indumentum of simple hairs; stems herbaceous, succulent or rarely woody
Leaves simple, petiolate or sessile, verticillate or opposite or spirally arranged, pinnately veined with margins crenulate or serrate or denticulate and often with glanduliferous (tentacle-like) hairs; exstipulate or with stipular glands
Inflorescences usually axillary, more rarely of terminal racemes or pseudumbels or fascicles, or flowers solitary
Flowers bisexual, sometimes cleistogamous (often in certain species with both normal and cleistogamous ones in the same inflorescence), always zygomorphic
Sepals 3, rarely 5, deciduous, imbricate; the posterior one (apparently anterior in position by resupination) petaloid, large, funnel-shaped, obliquely navicular or bucciniform, nearly always with a nectariferous spur; the lateral ones usually small, green or coloured
Petals 5; the anterior one (apparently posterior in position in the mature flower) always large, flat or helmet-shaped, often dorsally carinate; the 4 lower ones usually connate in lateral pairs, very rarely free, usually deeply 2-lobed, rarely with the posterior lobe reduced to a small auricle
Stamens 5, alternating with the petals; filaments flattened, connate above, closely attached to the ovary; anthers 2-thecous, connate or coherent, thus forming a crown round the ovary
Ovary superior, of 5 carpels, 5-locular, with axile placentation; ovules pendulous, anatropous, 3-many in a row on each placenta; style 1, usually very short; stigmas 1–5
Fruit a 5-valved loculicidal capsule, with the valves opening elastically and coiling, rarely a berry (in the Asiatic genus Hydrocera)
Seeds without endosperm; embryo straight


Balsaminaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:1. 1954

Succulent herbs; leaves alternate or opposite, simple, penninerved; stipules absent
Flowers zygomorphic, hermaphrodite, brightly coloured, solitary to subumbellate
Sepals 3, rarely 5, coloured, imbricate, unequal, the lowermost hollowed out into a spur
Petals 3, the upper one outside, usually erect, concave, the lateral ones often 2-lobed
Stamens 5; filaments short and broad; anthers 2-celled, connate around the ovary
Ovary superior, 5-celled, with axile placentas; stigmas 1–5, more or less sessile; ovules numerous
Fruit a succulent capsule, opening elastically into 5 twisted valves
Seeds without endosperm and with straight embryo


Balsaminaceae, C. Grey-wilson. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1993

Annual or perennial herbs, sometimes with a tuberous or rhizomatous rootstock, occasionally subshrubby, sometimes epiphytic or semi-aquatic, usually growing in moist places in partial or complete shade, but never in dry places; stems usually succulent, rarely woody below, glabrous or pilose, upright or procumbent, often rooting at the lower nodes
Leaves simple, petiolate to sometimes sessile, spirally arranged, opposite or verticillate, pinnately veined, glabrous or pilose (hairs simple, multicellular); margins crenate, dentate or serrate, the teeth often with glanduliferous appendages, these sometimes fimbriate or filiform towards the base of the lamina; petiole occasionally with short capitate glands or fimbriae (extra-floral nectaries), usually in the upper half; exstipulate or with simple or branched glandular stipule-like structures
Flowers (fig. 1) bisexual, zygomorphic, resupinate through 180°, in simple or pseudoumbellate racemes forming axillary, rarely subterminal, inflorescences, or flowers often epedunculate, fascicled or solitary; bracts entire, rarely toothed; bracteoles occasionally present
Sepals 3, rarely 5, the lateral ones small, entire or toothed, the lower one (lower by resupination) large, navicular, funnel-shaped or saccate, tapering or abruptly constricted into a nectariferous spur which may be short- or long-filiform, straight, curved or incurved, or ± coiled, swollen at the tip or pointed, rarely bilobed or digitately lobed, often coloured
Petals 5, usually coloured, sometimes white, thin and sappy; the dorsal one (dorsal by resupination) small or large, flat or cucullate, often crested dorsally; lower petals free or united into lateral pairs at or below the middle (the lateral-united petals), the petals of each pair overlapping or with a narrow or wide sinus between them, the upper petals bilobed, emarginate or entire, as large as the lower petals or smaller, sometimes reduced to a tiny lobe, the lower petals seldom reduced, usually large or showy, bilobed, emarginate or entire, sometimes asymmetrically bilobed, the inner lobe occasionally drawn out into a long tapering appendage, sometimes emarginate along the inner margin
Stamens 5, alternating with the petals, connate or subconnate into a ring surrounding the ovary and stigma, falling off in one piece before the stigma ripens
Ovary superior, 5-locular, with exile placentation; ovules anatropous, 3–many; style 1, very short or ± absent; stigmas 1–5
Fruit a berry or a 5-valved loculicidal fleshy explosive capsule, the valves opening and coiling elastically to expel the seeds, glabrous or variously pubescent
Seed without endosperm, the testa smooth, warted or with simple, 1–many celled, hairs

Balsaminaceae A.Rich. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Dict. Class. Hist. Nat. [Bory] 2: 173. 1822 [31 Dec 1822] (1822)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.