The families of flowering plants.                                                                                                                                                                

Sapindaceae Juss.


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IncludingDodonaeaceae Link, Dyssapindaceae Radlk., Koelreuteriaceae J.G. Agardh, Saponaceae Vent.Excluding Hippocastanceae, Ptaeroxylaceae

Habit and leaf form. Trees, or shrubs, or lianas, or herbs; laticiferous (often), or non-laticiferous and without coloured juice. ‘Normal’ plants. Self supporting, or climbing; the climbers tendril climbers (the tendrils representing modified infloresences), or scrambling. Mesophytic. Leaves alternate; spiral; petiolate; non-sheathing; gland-dotted (often), or not gland-dotted; without marked odour; compound (usually), or simple (but it remains to be ascertained how often records of this condition could reasonably be interpreted as ‘unifoliolate’); often pulvinate; usually ternate, or pinnate, or bipinnate, or multiply compound (sometimes biternate). Lamina when simple, dissected to entire; when simple/dissected, pinnatifid; pinnately veined; cross-venulate. Leaves stipulate (in some climbers), or exstipulate. Domatia occurring in the family (from 17 genera and numerous species); manifested as pits, or pockets, or hair tufts.

Leaf anatomy. Extra-floral nectaries absent. Abaxial epidermis papillose (often), or not papillose. Mucilaginous epidermis present (very commonly), or absent. Stomata anomocytic (usually), or paracytic.

Adaxial hypodermis present (often), or absent. Lamina dorsiventral (usually), or isobilateral to centric; without secretory cavities. The mesophyll with spherical etherial oil cells, or without etherial oil cells (?); containing mucilage cells, or not containing mucilage cells (?); with sclerencymatous idioblasts, or without sclerenchymatous idioblasts; usually containing calcium oxalate crystals. Minor leaf veins without phloem transfer cells (Cardiospermum,Dodonaea, Melicocca).

Stem anatomy. Cork cambium present; initially superficial (usually), or deep-seated (e.g. Dodonaea). Nodes tri-lacunar. Internal phloem absent. Secondary thickening developing from a conventional cambial ring, or anomalous; sometimes via concentric cambia (e.g. Serjania). ‘Included’ phloem present (rarely), or absent. Xylem with libriform fibres; with vessels. Vessel end-walls simple. Vessels without vestured pits. Primary medullary rays narrow. Wood storied (e.g. Diplokeleba), or partially storied (VPI, Sapindus); parenchyma paratracheal, or apotracheal and paratracheal.

Reproductive type, pollination. Unisexual flowerspresent. Plants monoecious, or polygamomonoecious, or polygamodioecious (but seemingly with much scope for confusion re. appearance versus functional fertility of floral components). Female flowers with staminodes (often with well developed but non-functional stamens), or without staminodes (?).

Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers solitary (rarely), or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; in cymes. The ultimate inflorescence unit cymose. Inflorescences usually cymes, thyrses or cincinni. Flowers usually bracteate; bracteolate (usually), or ebracteolate; small; regular to very irregular (often obliquely zygomorphic). The floral irregularity involving the perianth and involving the androecium. Flowers often 4 merous, or 5 merous; cyclic; tetracyclic (usually), or tricyclic. Floral receptacle developing an androphore to developing a gynophore (e.g. sometimes in Dodonaea, by elongation of the disk of female and bisexual flowers), or with neither androphore nor gynophore. Free hypanthium absent.Hypogynous disk present (usually), or absent (or at least indistinct, e.g in Dodonaea); extrastaminal (the stamens usually inserted within it, occasionally upon it); annular or one-sided.

Perianthwith distinct calyx and corolla (usually), or sepaline (the corolla occasionally lacking); (3–)4–5(–7) (rarely), or 8, or 9, or 10; 1 whorled (rarely), or 2 whorled (usually); isomerous, or anisomerous (e.g. when the abaxial petal is lacking). Calyx (3–)4, or 5(–7); 1 whorled; polysepalous (usually), or partially gamosepalous (sometimes ostensibly 4-merous), or gamosepalous (sometimes basally connate). Sometimes 2 of the members joined. Calyx unequal but not bilabiate, or regular; imbricate (usually), or valvate; when K5, with the median member posterior. Corolla 4, or 5; 1 whorled; appendiculate (often, the appendages basal, scalelike), or not appendiculate; gamopetalous (usually), or polypetalous (e.g. Koelreuteria); imbricate; unequal but not bilabiate, or regular.

Androecium 8, or 10 (usually), or 4–5(–6), or 11–100 (i.e. sometimes ‘many’). Androecial members free of the perianth; free of one another; 2 whorled (rather theoretically 5+5), or 1 whorled, or 2–5 whorled (sometimes polystemonous in several indistinct series, in Distichostemon). Androecium of male-fertile flowers exclusively of fertile stamens. Stamens 4–5(–6) (rarely), or 8, or 10, or 11–100 (rarely ‘many’); isomerous with the perianth (rarely, e.g. in Ganophyllum), or diplostemonous to polystemonous (usually); filantherous (the filaments often hairy). Anthers dorsifixed, or basifixed (to slightly ventrifixed); more or less versatile; dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; tetrasporangiate; appendaged (usually), or unappendaged. The anther appendages apical (by connective extension). Endothecium developing fibrous thickenings. Anther epidermis persistent, or degenerating. Microsporogenesis simultaneous. The initial microspore tetrads tetrahedral, or isobilateral. Anther wall initially with one middle layer, or initially with more than one middle layer (1–2 layers). Tapetum glandular. Pollen grains aperturate; (2–)3(–4) aperturate; colporate (usually tricolporate, sometimes bicolporate, sometimes syncolporate), or porate (rarely 3–4 porate); 2-celled (in Koelreuteria, Litchi andXanthoceras).

Gynoecium (2–)3(–8) carpelled. Carpels reduced in number relative to the perianth, or isomerous with the perianth. The pistil (2–)3(–8) celled. Gynoeciumsyncarpous; synovarious to eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary (2–)3(–8) locular. Locules without ‘false septa’. Gynoecium stylate. Styles 1 (usually), or 2–4; free, or partially joined; attenuate from the ovary, or from a depression at the top of the ovary (rarely, from between the ovary lobes); apical. Stigmas wet type; non-papillate; Group IV type. Placentation axile to basal. Ovules 1(–2) per locule, or 2–5 per locule (Dodonaeoideae); funicled, or sessile (then attached to placental protuberances); pendulous, or horizontal, or ascending; apotropous (Engler); with ventral raphe, or with dorsal raphe; arillate (usually), or non-arillate; hemianatropous, or anatropous, or campylotropous, or amphitropous; bitegmic; crassinucellate. Outer integument contributing to the micropyle (usually), or not contributing to the micropyle (rarely). Embryo-sac development Polygonum-type. Polar nuclei fusing prior to fertilization. Antipodal cells formed; 3; proliferating (forming up to 14 cells), or not proliferating; ephemeral (usually), or persistent (rarely). Synergids hooked. Hypostase present. Endosperm formation nuclear. Embryogeny asterad.

Fruit fleshy, or non-fleshy; dehiscent, or indehiscent, or a schizocarp. Mericarps when schizocarpic, (2–)3(–8) (?). Fruit when non-schizocarpic a capsule, or a berry, or a drupe, or a nut, or a samara. Capsules loculicidal, or splitting irregularly, or circumscissile. Seeds non-endospermic. Perispermabsent. Seeds with amyloid, or without amyloid. Cotyledons 2; flat (?), or folded, or twisted (and sometimes confluent). Embryo chlorophyllous (4/6), or achlorophyllous (4/4); curved, or bent, or coiled. The radicle dorsal.

Seedling.Germination phanerocotylar, or cryptocotylar.

Physiology, biochemistry. Cyanogenic, or not cyanogenic. Cynogenic constituents leucine-derived (and CN lipids). Alkaloids present, or absent. Iridoids not detected. Proanthocyanidins present; cyanidin, or cyanidin and delphinidin. Flavonols present; quercetin, or kaempferol and quercetin, or quercetin and myricetin, or kaempferol, quercetin, and myricetin. Ellagic acid absent (6 species, 5 genera). Saponins/sapogenins present, or absent. Aluminium accumulation not found. Sugars transported as sucrose (in 9 genera). C3 and CAM. C3 physiology recorded directly in Cardiospermum. CAM recorded directly in Dodonaea (non-succulent, and dubious). Anatomy non-C4 type (Nephelium).

Geography, cytology. Temperate to tropical. Pantropical and subtropical, also Japan, and widespread in Australasia. X = 10–16.

Taxonomy.Subclass Dicotyledonae; Crassinucelli. Dahlgren’s Superorder Rutiflorae; Sapindales. Cronquist’s Subclass Rosidae; Sapindales. APG 3 core angiosperms; core eudicot; Superorder Rosanae; malvid; Order Sapindales.

Species about 2000. Genera about 140; Alectryon, Allophylus, Allosanthus,Amesiodendron, Aporrhiza, Arfeuillea, Arytera, Atalaya,Athyana, Averrhoidium, Beguea, Bizonula, Blighia,Blighiopsis, Blomia, Bridgesia, Camptolepis, Cardiospermum,Castanospora, Chonopetalum, Chouxia, Chytranthus, Conchopetalum,Cossinia, Cubilia, Cupania, Cupaniopsis, Deinbollia,Delavaya, Diatenopteryx, Dictyoneura, Dilodendron, Dimocarpus,Diploglottis, Diplokelepa, Diplopeltis, Distichostemon,Dodonaea, Doratoxylon, Elattostachys, Eriocoelum, Erythrophysa,Euchorium, Euphorianthus, Eurycorymbus, Exothea, Filicium,Ganophyllum, Glenniea, Gloeocarpus, Gongrodiscus, Gongrospermum,Guindilia, Guioa, Handeliodendron, Haplocoelum, Harpullia,Hippobromus, Hornea, Houssayanthus, Hypelate, Hypseloderma,Jagera, Koelreuteria, Laccodiscus, Lecaniodiscus, Lepiderema,Lepidopetalum, Lepisanthes, Litchi, Llagunoa, Lophostigma,Loxodiscus, Lychnodiscus, Macphersonia, Magonia, Majidea,Matayba, Melicoccus, Mischocarpus, Molinaea, Neotina,Nephelium, Otonephelium, Pancovia, Pappea, Paranephelium,Paullinia, Pavieasia, Pentascyphus, Phyllotrichum, Placodiscus,Plagioscyphus, Podonephelium, Pometia, Porocystis, Pseudima,Pseudopancovia, Pseudopteris, Radlkofera, Rhysotoechia,Sapindus, Sarcopteryx, Sarcotoechia, Schleichera, Scyphonychium,Serjania, Sinoradlkofera, Sisyrolepis, Smelophyllum,Stadmania, Stocksia, Storthocalyx, Synima, Talisia,Thinouia, Thouinia, Thouinidium, Tina, Tinopsis,Toechima, Toulicia, Trigonachras, Tripterodendron, Tristira,Tristiropsis, Tsingya, Ungnadia, Urvillea, Vouarana,Xanthoceras, Xeropspermum, Zanha, Zollingeria.

Economic uses, etc. Fruits: ‘Spanish lime’ (Melicoccus), litchi and longan (Litchi spp.), pulusan and rambutan (Nephelium spp.); Blighea with edible arils (‘akee’).


  • Technical details: Alectryon, Koelreuteria Stadmannia.
  • Technical details: Deinbollia (Thonner).
  • Technical details: Sapindus (Lindley). 
  • Urvillea ferruginea: Bot. Reg. 1077, 1827.
  • Dodonaea viscosa: Bot. Reg. 1051, 1827.
  • Diplopeltis huegelii: Bot. Reg. 1839, 69.
  • Euphoria longana: as E. longan, Bot. Reg. 1729, 1835.
  • Euphoria verticillata, probably = Lepisanthes senegalensis: Bot. Reg. 1059, 1827.
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