Aquatic to telmatic perennial, rooted herbs. Leaves simple, spirally arranged, sessile, without a basal sheath, lanceolate to linear or nearly filiform, commonly bidentate apically. Flowers axillary, solitary on short to long pedicels, emergent, actinomorphic, perfect, hypogynous, trimerous, with strongly differentiated calyx and corolla; sepals 3, equal, free, green, valvate to subvalvate; petals 3, equal free, white, imbricate, short-clawed; stamens 3, alternate with the petals; filaments slender, glabrous; anthers basifixed, tetrasporangiate to bisporangiate, opening by apical pores or porelike slits or sometimes by pores at the end of a tubular apical appendage. Ovary unilocular, composed of 3 united carpels, placentation parietal; style simple, terminal; stigma short capitate or slightly trifid. Ovules several to numerous, biseriate on each of the 3 parietal placentas atropous, bitegmic, tenuinucellate. Fruit a loculicidal capsule with 3 lines of dehiscence, each midway between a placenta. Seeds ovoid to globose, striate, operculate; embryo small, globose, undifferentiated, apical; endosperm copious, composed of starch and aleurone. x = 8.
One genus with four to ten spp., one native to tropical West Africa, the others to tropical and warm-temperate America.
Plants of Mayaca are rooted in the substrate and often submerged (at least seasonally). The seeds are resistant to desiccation and hence they can grow along river banks and lake margins that experience seasonal drying. They generally grow on depleted sandy soils in the absence of other vegetation indicating that they do not do well in competition.
The Mayacaceae exhibit a disjunct distribution pattern with one species, M. baumii Giirke, occurring in Zaire, Angola, and Zambia in West Africa. The other three to nine species are New World and widespread, ranging from the SE United States through the West Indies and Central America to Paraguay.
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