Sp. Pl. 2: 671. 1753

Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 302. 1754

Common names: Spiderflower
Etymology: Origin obscure, perhaps from Greek kleos, glory, or after Kleo, Greek muse of history, first used by Priscian, fourteenth-century medical writer
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 7. Treatment on page 215. Mentioned on page 201, 205, 218, 222.
Herbs, annual or perennial. Stems unbranched or sparsely branched; glandular-pubescent, glabrous, glabrescent, or scabrous. Leaves: stipules absent or scalelike; petiole with pulvinus basally or distally, (petiolule basally adnate, forming pulvinar disc); leaflets 1 or 3[–11] (flat). Inflorescences terminal or axillary (from distal leaves), racemes (flat-topped or elongated); bracts present [absent]. Flowers zygomorphic; sepals persistent, basally connate (1/2 of length), equal (each often subtending a nectary); petals equal; stamens [4] 6; filaments inserted on a discoid or conical androgynophore, glabrous; anthers (oblong to linear), coiling as pollen is released; gynophore recurved in fruit [obsolete]. Fruits capsules, dehiscent, oblong. Seeds 4–25, reniform or ovoid-spheroidal, arillate or not, (cleft fused between ends). x = 10 (?).


Old World, warm temperate and tropical areas.


Species ca. 20 (2 in the flora).

The center of diversity of Cleome is in southwestern Asia. There are only two true Cleome in North America. Other native and adventive species formerly included in Cleome are placed in Arivela, Cleoserrata, Gynandropsis, Hemiscola, Peritoma, and Tarenaya.



Lower Taxa


1 Capsules 25-35 mm; bracts mostly unifoliate; leaflet blade linear to elliptic. Cleome ornithopodioides
1 Capsules 40-70 mm; bracts trifoliate; leaflet blade oblanceolate to rhombic-elliptic. Cleome rutidosperma