Plant Types: II. C4 Plants, Examples, and C4 Families

C4 plants are those which photosynthesize following the mechanism called C4 Photosynthesis. They are found only in the angiosperms with about 8,000 members in 17 families (see list below), equivalent to about 3% of all land plants. Combined, the grasses (family Poaceae or Gramineae) and sedges (family Cyperaceae) comprise roughly 79% of the total number of C4 species (Simpson 2010).

Sorghum, an example of C4 plantsSorghum, as well as corn, millets and sugarcane are C4 plants. Many serious weeds which are grasses and sedges also exhibit C4 photosynthesis.

Examples of C4 Plants

Examples of C4 species are the economically important crops corn or maize (Zea mays), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), and millets, as well as the switchgrass (Panicum virganum) which has been utilized as a source of biofuel. 

Other examples consist of serious weeds such as the nutgrass or purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus), couch or bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), barnyard grass (Echinocloa spp.), goosegrass (Eleusine indica), Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), cogon (Imperata cylindrica), common purslane or alusiman (Portulaca oleracea), crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis), several species of pigweed (Amaranthus spp.), carabao grass (Paspalum conjugatum), itchgrass (Rottboellia exaltata), and Russian thistle or tumbleweed (Salsola kali) (Llewellyn 2000; Moore et al. 2003). 

List of families in the angiosperms having at least one C4 member              
 (from Simpson 2010)

	     Family				 Order
	 1. Cyperaceae 				Poales
	 2. Hydrocharitaceae 			Alismatales
	 3. Poaceae / Gramineae 		Poales

	1.  Acanthaceae 			Lamiales
	2.  Aizoaceae 				Caryophyllales
	3.  Amaranthaceae (inc. Chenopodiaceae) Caryophyllales
	4.  Asteraceae 				Asterales
	5.  Boraginaceae 			Boraginales
	6.  Capparidaceae 			Brassicales
	7.  Caryophyllaceae 			Caryophyllales
	8.  Euphorbiaceae 			Malpighiales 
	9.  Molluginaceae 			Caryophyllales
	10. Nyctaginaceae 			Caryophyllales 
	11. Polygonaceae 			Caryophyllales
	12. Portulacaceae 			Caryophyllales
	13. Scrophulariaceae 			Lamiales
	14. Zygophyllaceae 			Zygophyllales

(Ben G. Bareja Aug. 2013)

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