caper, common name for members of the Capparidaceae, a family of tropical plants found chiefly in the Old World and closely related to the family Cruciferae (or Brassicaceae; mustard family). Capparis spinosa is cultivated in the Mediterranean area for its flower buds—capers—which are pickled and used as a condiment. The spiderflower (Cleome spinosa) is a common garden annual. The family also includes a few species indigenous to the United States, e.g., the burro-fat (Isomeris), a common desert shrub of the Southwest. The caper family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Capparales (or Brassicales).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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