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The families of flowering plants

L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz

Napoleonaeaceae P. Beauv.

~ Lecythidaceae.

Including Belvisieae (Belvisiaceae) R.Br.

Habit and leaf form. Glabrous trees, or shrubs. Plants non-succulent. Leaves alternate; simple. Lamina dissected, or entire; when dissected, obscurely toothed; pinnately veined; cross-venulate. Leaves exstipulate. Lamina margins entire, or serrate, or dentate.

General anatomy. Plants with silica bodies (?).

Leaf anatomy. Lamina without secretory cavities. The mesophyll without etherial oil cells; containing crystals. The crystals solitary-prismatic. Minor leaf veins without phloem transfer cells (Napoleonaea).

Axial (stem, wood) anatomy. Secretory cavities absent. Cork cambium present; initially superficial. Internal phloem absent. Cortical bundles present (at least in Napoleonaea). Secondary thickening developing from a conventional cambial ring. Primary medullary rays wide.

The vessel end-walls simple. The axial xylem without tracheids; without fibre tracheids; with libriform fibres. ‘Included’ phloem absent.

Reproductive type, pollination. Plants hermaphrodite.

Inflorescence, floral, fruit and seed morphology. Flowers usually solitary (axillary); medium-sized (often brightly coloured and showy).

Perianth sepaline (the corolla lacking, but the outer androecial members forming a pseudo-corolla); 3, or 5; 1 whorled. Calyx 3 (Crateranthus), or 5 (Napoleonaea); 1 whorled; polysepalous (when 3, Crateranthus), or gamosepalous (when 5, Napoleonaea); imbricate (when K3), or valvate (when K5).

Androecium 50–100 (‘many’). Androecial members maturing centrifugally; free of the perianth; coherent (the filaments connate below); in Napoleonaea 4 whorled (in ‘several series’ in Crateranthus). Androecium including staminodes (these spectacularly configured, the outermost whorl forming a pseudocorolla, the two inner series a corona), or exclusively of fertile stamens (Crateranthus). Staminodes 30–100 (? — many); external to the fertile stamens; petaloid and non-petaloid (those of the outermost series being joined to form a many-nerved and many-toothed, plicate pseudo-corolla, those of the second series more or less linear and free or only slightly united, those of the third series basally spurred and united to form a 20–40-lobed cup, with apically incurved lobes). Stamens 5–30 (? — to 20 in Napoleonae, these and staminodes constituting the innermost of the four androecial whorls); polystemonous. Anthers extrorse. Pollen grains aperturate; 3 aperturate; colporate (to colporoidate); 3-celled.

Gynoecium 3 carpelled, or 5 carpelled. Carpels isomerous with the perianth. The pistil 3 celled, or 5 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synstylovarious, or eu-syncarpous (?); inferior. Ovary 3 locular, or 5 locular. Epigynous disk present (intrastaminal, 10-glanded in Napoleonaea), or absent (? — no intrastaminal disk in Crateranthus). Gynoecium stylate. Styles 1; apical; short and apically expanded in Napoleonaea, long-filiform in Crateranthus. Stigmas wet type; non-papillate; Group IV type. Placentation axile. Ovules 2–50 per locule (to ‘many’); 2–4 seriate; anatropous; embryology not recorded.

Fruit fleshy; indehiscent; a berry (large). Seeds non-endospermic. Cotyledons 2; large, thick.

Physiology, phytochemistry. Not cyanogenic. Iridoids not detected. Saponins/sapogenins present. Proanthocyanidins absent.

Geography, cytology. Paleotropical. Tropical. West Africa. X = 16.

Taxonomy. Subclass Dicotyledonae; Tenuinucelli (presumed, with reference to Lecythidaceae). Dahlgren’s Superorder Theiflorae; Theales. Cronquist’s Subclass Dilleniidae; Lecythidales. APG 3 core angiosperms; core eudicot; Superorder Asteranae; Order Ericales (as a synonym of Lecythidaceae).

Species 18. Genera 2; Crateranthus, Napoleonaea.

General remarks. Morton et al. (1998) presented this group as subfamily Napoleonaeoideae of Lecythidaceae, based on an assessment ‘using both molecular and morphological data’. The present description, which refers mainly to Napoleonaea and is fairly inadequate, differs conspicuously from that of Lecythidaceae sensu stricto (q.v.) only in the one-whorled perianth and more numerous stamens, but also shows unstratified secondary phloem, 3-celled pollen grains, and basic chromosme number X = 16.

Illustrations. • Napoleonaea vogelii: Hook. Ic. Pl. 7 (1845). • Le Maout and Decaisne: Napoleonaea.


We advise against extracting comparative information from the descriptions. This is much more easily achieved using the DELTA data files or the interactive key, which allows access to the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, distributions of character states within any set of taxa, geographical distribution, genera included in each family, and classifications (Dahlgren; Dahlgren, Clifford, and Yeo; Cronquist; APG). See also Guidelines for using data taken from Web publications.


Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 24th October 2017. delta-intkey.com/angio’.

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