Brief Summary

The Lecythidaceae are a pantropical family of trees found in the tropics of Central and South America, southeast Asia, and Africa, including Madagascar. The family is divided into three subfamilies, the Planchonioideae, with six genera, the best known of which is Barringtonia, and 59 species in tropical Asia, Malaysia, northern Australia, the Pacific Islands, and Madagascar; the Foetidioideae, with a single genus, Foetidia, and 17 species in Madagascar, Mauritius, and East Africa; and the Lecythidoideae of the Western Hemisphere.

Two other closely related families, the Napoleonaeaceae and the Scytopetalaceae, were previously considered subfamilies of the Lecythidaceae but they are now treated as closely related families. One South American species, Asteranthos brasiliensis, was at one time placed in the Napoleonaeaceae, but embryological, morphological, and molecular evidence demonstrate that it has a stronger relationship with the Scytopetalaceae.

According to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG), the Brazil nut family belongs to the order Ericales which is basal to the euasterid clade. Within the Ericales, the position of the Lecythidaceae is not resolved. For more information about this family of tropical trees see The Lecythidaceae Pages.

Species of the Brazil nut family in the New World range from Veracruz, Mexico (Eschweilera mexicana) to Paraguay (Cariniana estrellensis); the Caribbean is home only to Grias cauliflora which occurs in Jamaica and Central America from Belize and Guatemala to northwestern Colombia; and several species of Eschweilera grow in Trinidad and Tobago, but these islands harbor a South American, not a Caribbean, flora.

The Brazil nut is the economically most important species of Lecythidaceae. Brazil nuts are gathered only from Bertholletia excelsa, a species of non-flooded forest native to Guyana, Surinam, and Amazonian Colombia, Venezuela , Peru , Bolivia, and Brazil . Another species, the cannon-ball tree is cultivated as a botanical curiosity in tropical gardens because of its showy, aromatic flowers and cannon ball like fruits that arise profusely from the main trunk. There are two other species of Couroupita, C. nicaraguarensis and C. subsessilis that are also called cannon ball trees, but these species are not cultivated. Some species, especially in the genus Cariniana, yield valuable timbers.

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Comprehensive Description


Trees or shrubs. Stipules 0 or caducous. Leaves simple, alternate or clustered at branch apices. Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic, solitary or in spikes, clusters or racemes. Sepals usually 4-6. Petals usually 4-6, ± free. Stamens many in several whorls, often arranged on one side of the flower. Ovary inferior, 2-6-locular. Fruit a berry or woody capsule, indehiscent or dehiscent by a lid (circumscissile).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:317
Specimens with Sequences:344
Specimens with Barcodes:328
Species With Barcodes:86
Public Records:161
Public Species:61
Public BINs:0
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Barcode data

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Barringtonia acutangula (Freshwater Mangrove) fruits in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

The Lecythidaceae comprise a family of about 20 genera and 250-300 species of woody plants native to tropical South America and Madagascar.

According to the most recent molecular analysis of Lecythidaceae by Mori et al. (2007),[2] the three subfamilies are:

  • Foetidioideae (Foetidiaceae) from Madagascar include only Foetidia.
  • Planchonioideae (including Barringtoniaceae) are restricted to the Old World tropics.
  • Lecythidoideae (Lecythidaceae) are restricted to the New World tropics.

Two other families are sometimes included in Lecythidaceae; the Scytopetalaceae and Napoleonaeaceae are hypothesized as most closely related to Lecythidaceae.

More detailed information about Lecythidaceae, especially the New World taxa, can be found at the Lecythidaceae Pages.

The most important member of the family in world trade is the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa), valued for its edible nuts; the paradise nut (Lecythis species) is also eaten.

The APG II system of 2003 includes genera from the family Scytopetalaceae in the Lecythidaceae, including Rhaptopetalum and Brazzeia. Careya is called pezham in Malayalam.

List of genera[edit]


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III" (PDF). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  2. ^ Mori, S. A.; Tsou, C. -H.; Wu, C. -C.; Cronholm, B.; Anderberg, A. A. (2007). "Evolution of Lecythidaceae with an emphasis on the circumscription of neotropical genera: Information from combined ndhF and trnL-F sequence data". American Journal of Botany 94 (3): 289–301. doi:10.3732/ajb.94.3.289. PMID 21636402.  edit
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Takhtajan, A. (1997). Diversity and classification of flowering plants. ISBN 0-231-10098-1. 
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