Amygdaloideae is a subfamily within the flowering plant family Rosaceae. It was formerly considered by some authors to be separate from Rosaceae,[1] and the family names Prunaceae and Amygdalaceae have been used. Reanalysis from 2007 has shown that the previous definition of subfamily Spiraeoideae was paraphyletic.[2] To solve this problem, a larger subfamily was defined that includes the former Amygdaloideae, Spiraeoideae, and Maloideae. This subfamily, however, is to be called Amygdaloideae rather than Spiraeoideae under the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants as updated in 2011.[3]

As traditionally defined, the Amygdaloideae includes such commercially important crops as plum, cherry, apricot, peach, and almond. The fruit of these plants are known as stone fruit (drupes), as each fruit contains a hard shell (the endocarp) called a stone or pit, which contains the single seed.

The expanded definition of the Amygdaloideae adds to these commercially important crops such as apples and pears that have pome fruit, and also important ornamental plants such as Spiraea and Aruncus that have hard dry fruits.

Taxonomic history[edit]

The name Prunoideae is sometimes used, but is incorrect. The 1835 publication of that name by Gilbert Thomas Burnett (Burnett) is invalid because it lacks a description (or diagnosis or reference to an earlier description or diagnosis). Paul Fedorowitsch Horaninow (Horan.) published the name in 1847, but Amygdaloideae, published in 1832 by George Arnott Walker Arnott, has priority and is therefore the correct name.

The taxonomy of this group of plants within the Rosaceae has recently been unclear. In 2001 it was reported[4] that Amygdaloideae sensu stricto consists of two distinct genetic groups or "clades", PrunusMaddenia and ExochordaOemleriaPrinsepia. Further refinement[2] shows that ExochordaOemleriaPrinsepia is somewhat separate from PrunusMaddeniaPygeum, and that the traditional subfamilies Maloideae and Spiraeoideae must be included in Amygdaloideae if a paraphyletic group is to be avoided. With this classification, the genus Prunus is considered to include Armeniaca, Cerasus, Amygdalus, Padus, Laurocerasus, Pygeum, and Maddenia.

Robert Frost alluded to the merging of Amygdalaceae into Rosaceae in his poem The Rose Family,[5] when he wrote "The rose is a rose and was always a rose / But the theory now goes that the apple's a rose, / and the pear is, and so's the plum, I suppose." In the next line he wrote, "The dear [i.e., "the dear Lord", euphemized] only knows what will next prove a rose." This referred to shifting botanical opinion which had recently[6] reunited Amygdalaceae, Spiraeaceae, and Malaceae into Rosaceae (which matches de Jussieu's 1789 classification).[7]


A recent classification places the following genera in the subfamily:[2]


  1. ^ John Lindley (1830). Introduction to the natural system of botany: or, a systematic view of the organization, natural affinities, and geographic distribution of the whole vegetable kingdom; together with the uses of the most important species in medicine, the arts, and rural or domestic economy. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. pp. 84–85.  Note that Lindley give it a family name (Amygdaleae) that is unacceptable under modern codes of nomenclature, and he referred to the families as "tribes"
  2. ^ a b c D. Potter, T. Eriksson, R. C. Evans, S. Oh, J. E. E. Smedmark, D. R. Morgan, M. Kerr, K. R. Robertson, M. Arsenault, T. A. Dickinson & C. S. Campbell (2007). "Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae" (PDF). Plant Systematics and Evolution 266 (1–2): 5–43. doi:10.1007/s00606-007-0539-9.  Note that this publication pre-dates the 2011 International Botanical Congress which mandates that the combined subfamily referred to in the paper as Spiraeoideae must be called Amygdaloideae.
  3. ^ McNeill, J.; Barrie, F.R.; Buck, W.R.; Demoulin, V.; Greuter, W.; Hawksworth, D.L.; Herendeen, P.S.; Knapp, S.; Marhold, K.; Prado, J.; Reine, W.F.P.h.V.; Smith, G.F.; Wiersema, J.H.; Turland, N.J. (2012). International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011. Regnum Vegetabile 154. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag KG. ISBN 978-3-87429-425-6.  Article 19.5, ex. 5
  4. ^ Sangtae Lee & Jun Wen (2001). "A phylogenetic analysis of Prunus and the Amygdaloideae (Rosaceae) using ITS sequences of nuclear ribosomal DNA". American Journal of Botany 88 (1): 150–160. doi:10.2307/2657135. PMID 11159135. 
  5. ^ Robert Frost (1928). West-Running Brook. Henry Holt & Co. 
  6. ^ Focke, W. O. (1894). "Rosaceae". In A. Engler; K. Prantl. Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien nebst ihren Gattungen und wichtigeren Arten insbesondere den Nutzpflanzen unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher hervorragender Fachgelehrten (in German) 3(3). Leipzig: W. Engelmann. pp. 1–61. 
  7. ^ de Jussieu, A.L. (1789). Genera plantarum secundum ordines naturales disposita (in Latin). Paris: Herrisant. 
  8. ^ Wolfe, J.A.; Wehr, W.C. (1988). "Rosaceous Chamaebatiaria-like foliage from the Paleogene of western North America". Aliso 12 (1): 177–200. 
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The Maloideae C.Weber are the apple subfamily, a grouping used by some taxonomists within the rose family, Rosaceae. Recent molecular phylogenetic evidence[1] has shown that the traditional Spiraeoideae and Amygdaloideae form part of the same clade as the traditional Maloideae, and the correct name for this group is Amygdaloideae. Earlier circumscriptions of Maloideae are more-or-less equivalent to subtribe Malinae or to tribe Maleae. The group includes a number of plants bearing commercially important fruits, such as apples and pears, while others are cultivated as ornamentals.

In its traditional circumscription[2] this subfamily consisted exclusively of shrubs and small trees characterised by a pome, a type of accessory fruit that does not occur in other Rosaceae, and by a basal haploid chromosome count of 17 (instead of 7, 8, or 9 as in the other Rosaceae), involving approximately 28 genera with approximately 1100 species worldwide, with most species occurring in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.


The subfamily was given the name Pomoideae Juss. in 1789, but this name is no longer accepted under the nomenclature codes because it is not based on a genus name. It has also been separated into its own family the Malaceae Small[3] (formerly Pomaceae Lindl.).[4]

Recent molecular data have shown that the traditional subfamily Spiraeoideae is paraphyletic,[5][1] and to best reflect relationships subfamily Amygdaloideae has been expanded to include the former Spiraeoideae and Maloideae.[1]

An earlier intermediate classification[6] expanded Maloideae to include four genera with dry non-pome fruit. These are Kageneckia, Lindleya, and Vauquelinia, which have a haploid chromosome count of 15 or 17, and Gillenia, which is herbaceous and has a haploid chromosome count of 9.

A traditional circumscription of Maloideae includes the following genera:[2]
Amelanchier - serviceberry, juneberry
Aria (see Sorbus)
Aronia - chokeberry
Chaenomeles - Japanese quince
Chamaemespilus (see Sorbus chamaemespilus)
Cormus (see Sorbus)
Cotoneaster - cotoneaster
Crataegus - hawthorn
Cydonia - quince
Eriobotrya - loquat
Heteromeles - toyon
Malus - apple, crabapple
Mespilus - medlar
Pseudocydonia - Chinese quince
Pyracantha - firethorn
Pyrus - pear
Rhaphiolepis - hawthorn
Sorbus - rowan, whitebeam, service tree
Stranvaesia = Photinia pro parte
Torminalis (see Sorbus torminalis)

intergeneric hybrids[7]:

and graft hybrids:
+Pyrocydonia (Pirocydonia)


  1. ^ a b c Potter, D.; Eriksson, T.; Evans, R.C.; Oh, S.H.; Smedmark, J.E.E.; Morgan, D.R.; Kerr, M.; Robertson, K.R.; Arsenault, M.P.; Dickinson, T.A.; Campbell, C.S. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43. doi:10.1007/s00606-007-0539-9
  2. ^ a b G. K. Schulze-Menz 1964. Reihe Rosales. in A. Engler's Syllabus der Pflanzenfamilien mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Nutzpflanzen nebst einer Übersicht über die Florenreiche und Florengebiete der Erde, Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin
  3. ^ GRIN Taxonomy for Plants
  4. ^ Lindley, J. (1822). Observations on the natural group of plants called Pomaceae. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London. 13: 88–106.
  5. ^ Morgan, D.R.; Soltis, D.E.; Robertson, K.R. (1994). Systematic and evolutionary implications of rbcL sequence variation in Rosaceae. American Journal of Botany. 81(7): 890–903.
  6. ^ Evans, R. C., Campbell, C. S. (2002). "The origin of the apple subfamily (Maloideae; Rosaceae) is clarified by DNA sequence data from duplicated GBSSI genes". American Journal of Botany 89 (9): 1478–1484. doi:10.3732/ajb.89.9.1478. PMID 21665749. 
  7. ^ Stace, C.A. 1975. Hybridization and the flora of the British Isles. Academic Press, London.


  • Joseph R. Rohrer, Kenneth R. Robinson, James B. Phipps - Floral Morphology of Maloideae (Rosaceae) and its systematic Relevance; American Journal of Botany, 81 (5), P. 574-581; 1994
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The subfamily Spiraeoideae was traditionally a subfamily of flowering plants within family Rosaceae. The taxonomy of this subfamily has changed several times in the last century as more detailed studies have been carried out. Spiraeoideae as defined before 2007 is paraphyletic,[1] leading some authors to define a broader subfamily which includes the Spiraeoideae as well as the Maleae (plants such as pears and apples whose fruits are pomes), and the Amygdaloideae (including almonds and plums, whose fruits are drupes). Such an expanded subfamily is to be called Amygdaloideae under the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants.[2]

The traditional Spiraeoideae are shrubs. Most have simple leaves, but the genera Aruncus and Sorbaria have pinnately compound leaves. Carpels are usually 2-5. Most genera traditionally placed in the Spiraeoideae produce flowers with distinct follicles that, upon seed-set, mature to form fruits that are aggregates of follicles.

A traditional classification[3] places the following genera in the subfamily:



  1. ^ Potter, D., et al. (2007), "Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae", Plant Systematics and Evolution 266 (1–2): 5–43, doi:10.1007/s00606-007-0539-9 
  2. ^ van Rijckevorsel, P. (2009). "(030-036) Some proposals on automatically typified names". Taxon 58 (2): 662–663. 
  3. ^ Focke, W.O. 1894. Rosaceae. In Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien nebst ihren Gattungen und wichtigeren Arten insbesondere den Nutzpflanzen unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher hervorragender Fachgelehrten. Edited by A. Engler; K. Prantl. Leipzig. W. Engelmann.
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