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.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:344
Specimens with Barcodes:328
Species With Barcodes:86
According to the most recent molecular analysis of Lecythidaceae by Mori et al. (2007), 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.
More detailed information about Lecythidaceae, especially the New World taxa, can be found at the Lecythidaceae Pages.
List of genera
- Abdulmajidia Whitmore, also as Barringtoniaceae sensu Takhtajan 1997 
- Allantoma Miers
- Asteranthos Desf., also as Asteranthaceae 
- Barringtonia J.R.Forst. & G.Forst., also as Barringtoniaceae 
- Bertholletia Bonpl.
- Careya Roxb., also as Barringtoniaceae 
- Cariniana Casar.
- Chydenanthus Miers, also as Barringtoniaceae 
- Corythophora R.Knuth
- Couratari Aubl.
- Couroupita Aubl.
- Crateranthus Baker f., incertae sedis according Takhtajan, perhaps Napoleonaeaceae 
- Eschweilera Mart. ex DC.
- Foetidia Comm. ex Lam., also as Foetidiaceae 
- Grias L.
- Gustavia L.
- Lecythis Loefl.
- Napoleonaea P.Beauv., also as Napoleonaeaceae 
- Petersianthus Merr., also as Barringtoniaceae 
- Planchonia Blume, also as Barringtoniaceae 
- 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.
- 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.
- Takhtajan, A. (1997). Diversity and classification of flowering plants. ISBN 0-231-10098-1.
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