Family comprised of 91 genera and 2,460 species, mostly herbaceous, rarely with genera including shrubby species. Cosmopolitan Distribution. In North Africa there are some subshrubs with branchlets up to 50(60) cm in height, always pentamerous.

Silene fruticosa L., with obovate-spatulate basal leaves, lanceolate upper leaves, and showy flowers with extended petals, pinkish or reddish, about 3 cm, grows in rocky areas in the eastern Mediterranean, in the coastal regions of Libya (subsp. cyrenaica) and Egypt (subsp. fruticosa).

Sphaerocoma hookeri T. Anderson (Ara.: Hanboak), with linear leaves and minute flowers grouped in dense spinescent capitula, white petals, shorter than the sepals; it grows from NE Africa (coastal and subcoastal regions of Egypt and Sudan) up to Pakistan.

These subshrubs are beginning to be threatened in North Africa by the increasing urbanisation of coastal regions of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. In the Red List of vascular plants of Egypt (Flora Aegyptiaca Vol 1, 2000) S. fruticosa is listed as “Rare” and S. hookeri as “Vulnerable”.

But the family has a genus with a more robust species, up to 80 cm in height, it is Gymnocarpos.

Key to genera

1 Shrublet up to 80(100) cm in height with branchlets clearly woody.Leaves linear-subcylindrical, fleshy, up to 15 mm long. Without petals Gymnocarpos decandrus

1 Subshrublet up to 40(60) cm in height with branchlets not clearly lignified.Leaves not linear or if somewhat linear more than 50 mm long.With petals 2

2 Leaves obovate-spatulate to lanceolate, flowers in racemes with very showy petalsabout 3 cm long, longer than the sepals Silene fruticosa

2 Leaves linear-oblong, minute flowers grouped in dense spherical spinescent heads,with petals barely visible, about 2 mm long(shorter than the sepals) Sphaerocoma hookeri

Updated by: G. Benítez, J. Molero Mesa & J. Charco.