Did you know, the aromatic saunf is part of the Carrot family? I didn’t either! Apparently Saunf or fennel, along with celery, anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, dill and parsley are all one big family! Why is this exciting? Because, as soon as we know a plant belongs to one family, for a growing enthusiast, a lot of questions on shade, water and general characteristics become so much easier! Know one, know them all! – well its not that simple, but you get the idea.
In a natural forest, evolution had perfected the art of companion & layered planting, pest control, water retention and composting. But in our backyard we don’t have such help, so knowing plant families could come very handy.
As an example, plants of the same family are prone to similar pest attacks. They also are likely to flower and fruit at similar times and you are likely to find their seeds in the same area of the plant. These critical pieces of information, help in ensuring we manage the seeds, saplings, growth environment and more, efficiently.
However, identifying plants is not as simple as it may seem. Sometimes leaves of various plants may look the same but the plants may belong to different families. Botanically, plants are grouped together by their seeds, flowers and genes.
While identifying by flowers may be easiest visually, if you have missed the season, your best bet is to identify the family by the seed.
Here are some plants with their families*
- Solonancea — tomato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant
- Brassicaceae — Cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli – all variants of the same species cross breed very easily. These have very similar looking seeds. Radishes, Asian greens and mustards are a different species. These are prone to cabbage moth
- Cucurbitaceae — pumpkins, squash, zucchini, melons. With male and female flowers on the same plant, this family can be easily pollinated by bees
- Umbelliferae — This family gets its name from the shape of its flower and seed heads. Carrot, parsley, dill, fennel, coriander, celery, parsnip are part of this family
There are many plant families across the world and learning about plant families native to our own landscape maybe a good start. This is a topic worth deep research and through our experiments with permaculture, we are sure to learn more as we go ahead and we would be happy to share the same with you.