GERANIACEAE, in botany, a small but very widely distributed natural order of Dicotyledons belonging to the subclass Polypetalae, containing about 360 species in 11 genera.
The former comprise three classes, which are distinguished by the relative position of the stamens and ovary; the eleven classes of the latter are based on the same set of characters and fall into the larger subdivisions Apetalae, Monopetalae and Polypetalae, characterized respectively by absence, union or freedom of the petals, and a subdivision, Diclines Irregulares, a very unnatural group, including one class only.
Of the Polypetalae, series i, Thalamiflorae, is characterized by hypogynous petals and stamens, and contains 34 orders distributed in 6 larger groups or cohorts.
The sequence of orders in the polypetalous subdivision of Dicotyledons undoubtedly represents a progression from simpler to more elaborate forms, but a great drawback to the value of the system is the inclusion among the Monochlamydeae of a number of orders which are closely allied with orders of Polypetalae though differing in absence of a corolla.
The earlier Choripetalae embraces the Polypetalae and Monochlamydae of the French systems. It includes 21 series, and is an attempt to arrange as far as possible in a linear series those orders which are characterized by absence or freedom of petals.
At the same time the groups based upon the integuments are of much the same extent as the Polypetalae and Gamopetalae of other systems. We do not yet know the significance of this correlation, which, however, is not an invariable one, between number of integuments and union of petals.