The families of flowering plants.                                                                                                                                                                

Celastraceae R. Br.


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AlternativelyHippocrateaceae Juss.

IncludingChingithamnaceae Hand.-Mazz., Leptolobaceae Dulac, Pottingeriaceae (A. Engler) Takhtajan (doubtfully), Salaciaceae, TripterygiaceaeExcludingCanotiaceae, Goupiaceae, Lepuropetalaceae, Lophopyxidaceae,Parnassiaceae, Siphonodontaceae

Habit and leaf form. Trees, shrubs, and lianas; laticiferous, or non-laticiferous and without coloured juice. ‘Normal’ plants (usually), or switch-plants. Leaves well developed (mostly), or much reduced (e.g. Psammomoya, with leaves represented by cataphylls). Self supporting, or climbing; when climbing, stem twiners (e.g. Hippocratea).Leaves alternate, or opposite; ‘herbaceous’, or leathery, or membranous (?); petiolate; non-sheathing; not gland-dotted; simple. Lamina entire; pinnately veined; cross-venulate. Leaves stipulate (stipules small), or exstipulate. Stipules when present, caducous. Leaves without a persistent basal meristem. Domatia occurring in the family (in one genus); manifested as pits.

General anatomy. Plants with laticifers, or without laticifers. The laticifers when present, in stems, or in leaves and in stems.

Leaf anatomy. Mucilaginous epidermis present, or absent.

Lamina with secretory cavities, or without secretory cavities (?). The mesophyll with sclerencymatous idioblasts, or without sclerenchymatous idioblasts. Minor leaf veins without phloem transfer cells (Euonymus, Maytenus).

Stem anatomy. Secretory cavities present, or absent (?). Cork cambium present; initially deep-seated, or superficial. The cortex containing cristarque cells, or without cristarque cells. Nodes unilacunar. Internal phloem absent. Secondary thickening developing from a conventional cambial ring, or anomalous; when anomalous, via concentric cambia (e.g. Salacia). ‘Included’ phloem present, or absent. Xylem with tracheids, or without tracheids; with fibre tracheids, or without fibre tracheids; with libriform fibres, or without libriform fibres; with vessels. Vessel end-walls scalariform, or simple (usually). Vessels without vestured pits. Wood parenchyma apotracheal, or paratracheal.

Reproductive type, pollination. Plants hermaphrodite (usually), or monoecious, or dioecious. Pollination entomophilous.

Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in cymes, or in fascicles. The ultimate inflorescence unit cymose (usually), or racemose (rarely). Inflorescences terminal, or axillary, or epiphyllous (Polycardia); mostly cymes or fascicles. Flowers usually small; regular; 4–5 merous; cyclic; nearly always tetracyclic. Hypogynous disk usually present; intrastaminal; annular.

Perianthwith distinct calyx and corolla; (4–)8–10; 2 whorled; isomerous. Calyx (2–)4–5; 1 whorled; polysepalous, or gamosepalous (basally); regular; imbricate, or valvate (rarely). Corolla (2–)4–5; 1 whorled; not appendiculate; polypetalous; imbricate, or valvate; regular; not fleshy.

Androecium(2–)3, or (4–)5. Androecial members free of the perianth; free of one another, or coherent (sometimes connate at the base); when joined 1 adelphous; 1 whorled (usually), or 2 whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens (usually), or including staminodes. Staminodes sometimes (2–)3–5 (alternating with the stamens); internal to the fertile stamens; non-petaloid. Stamens (2–)3–5; isomerous with the perianth; oppositisepalous. Anthers dehiscing via longitudinal slits; extrorse, or introrse; unilocular to bilocular; bisporangiate, or tetrasporangiate. Endothecium developing fibrous thickenings. Anther epidermis persistent. Microsporogenesis simultaneous. The initial microspore tetrads tetrahedral, or decussate. Anther wall initially with more than one middle layer. Tapetum glandular. Pollen shed in aggregates (often), or shed as single grains; when in aggregates in tetrads, or in polyads. Pollen grains aperturate; 3 aperturate; colporate; 2-celled (Celastrus), or 3-celled (Hippocratea, Maytenus, Salacia).

Gynoecium2–5 carpelled (usually with all but one abortive). The pistil 1–5 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synovarious to eu-syncarpous; superior, or partly inferior (rarely). Ovary plurilocular; 2–5 locular. Gynoecium stylate, or non-stylate. Styles 1; attenuate from the ovary; apical. Stigmas 2–5 (same number as G);dry type; non-papillate; Group II type. Placentation axile.Ovules (1–)2 per locule (usually), or 3–50 per locule (rarely many); pendulous, or ascending; apotropous; with ventral raphe, or with dorsal raphe (when pendulous); often arillate; anatropous; bitegmic; tenuinucellate, or crassinucellate. Outer integument contributing to the micropyle, or not contributing to the micropyle. Endothelium differentiated. Embryo-sac development Polygonum-type. Polar nuclei fusing prior to fertilization. Antipodal cells formed; 3; not proliferating; usually ephemeral. Synergids pear-shaped, or hooked (with filiform apparatus in (e.g.) Hippocratea).Endosperm formation nuclear. Embryogeny caryophyllad, or solanad.

Fruit fleshy, or non-fleshy; not an aggregate; dehiscent, or indehiscent; a capsule, or capsular-indehiscent, or a berry, or a drupe, or a samara, or achene-like. Capsules loculicidal. Seeds endospermic (usually), or non-endospermic. Endosperm when present, ‘more or less’ oily. Seeds with a testa; winged, or wingless. Embryo well differentiated. Cotyledons 2; flat (large, foliaceous). Embryo chlorophyllous (3/19); straight.

Seedling.Germination phanerocotylar, or cryptocotylar.

Physiology, biochemistry. Not cyanogenic. Alkaloids present (commonly), or absent. Iridoids not detected. Proanthocyanidins present (usually), or absent; when present, cyanidin and delphinidin. Flavonols present, or absent (Salacia); kaempferol and quercetin (mostly), or myricetin (Catha). Ellagic acid absent (9 species, 5 genera). Arbutin absent. Saponins/sapogenins present, or absent. Aluminium accumulation demonstrated (rarely). Sugars transported as oligosaccharides + sucrose, or as sugar alcohols + oligosaccharides + sucrose. C3 (?), or CAM. CAM recorded directly in Gymnosporia (non-succulent, and dubious).

Geography, cytology. Sub-tropical and tropical (most), or temperate (fewer). Cosmopolitan.

Taxonomy.Subclass Dicotyledonae; Crassinucelli. Dahlgren’s Superorder Santaliflorae; Celastrales. Cronquist’s Subclass Rosidae; Celastrales. APG 3 core angiosperms; core eudicot; Superorder Rosanae; fabid; Order Celastrales.

Species 850. Genera about 85; Allocassine, Anthodon, Apatophyllum,Apodostigma, Arnicratea, Baequaertia, Bhesa, Brassiantha,Brexiella, Campylostemon, Cassine, Catha, Celastrus,Cheiloclinium, Crossopetalum, Cuervea, Denhamia, Dicarpellum,Elachyptera, Elaeodendron, Empleuridium, Euonymus, Evonymopsis,Fraunhofera, Glyptopetalum, Goniodiscus, Gyminda, Hartogiella,Hartogiopsis, Hedraianthera, Helictonema, Herya, Hexaspora,Hippocratea, Hylenaea, Hypsophila, Kokoona, Loeseneriella,Lophopetalum, Maurocenia, Maytenus, Menepetalum, Microtropis,Monimopetalum, Mortonia, Moya, Myginda, Nicobariodendron,Orthodphenia, Paxistima, Peripterygia, Peritassa, Perottetia,Platypterocarpus, Plenckia, Pleurostylia, Polycardia,Pottingeria(?), Prionostemma, Pristimera, Psammomoya,Pseudosalacia, Ptelidium, Pterocelastrus, Putterlickia,Quetzalia, Reissantia, Rzedowskia, Salacia, Salacighia,Salaciopsis, Salvadoropsis, Sarawakodendron, Schaefferia,Semialarium, Simicratea, Simirestis, Tetrasiphon, Thyrsosalacia,Tontelea, Torralbasia, Tripterygium, Tristemonanthus,Viposia, Wimmeria, Xylonymus, Zinowiewia.

Economic uses, etc. A few genera cultivated as ornamentals (e.g. Catha, Celastrus, Elaeodendron,Euonymus). The toxic alkaloid maytansine (from Maytenus), when delivered by antibodies, may have application in treating colon cancers (New Scientist 31 August 1996).


  • Technical details: Euonymus.
  • Technical details: Elaeodendron (Thonner).
  • Technical details: Salacia(Thonner).
  • Technical details: Hippocratea (Lindley).
  • Euonymus europaeus: Eng. Bot. 317, 1864.
  • Euonymus europaeus (B. Ent.).
  • Euonymus japonicus: Bot. Reg. 1844, 6.
  • Maytenus boaria: as M. chilensis, Bot. Reg. 1702, 1835.
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