Latin American Malvaceae Subfamily Malvoideae

Illustrated key to the genera

Welcome to the Latin American Malvoideae key

The key follows the APG III classification system and includes all the genera belonging to the Malvaceae subfamily Malvoideae (= Malvaceae s.s.), and which either have members native to or cultivated in Latin America.

The Tropical America team at Kew has been building this key for the past three years. By using authoritatively identified herbarium specimens and taxonomic literature we devised a set of characters which were subsequently scored for the 78 genera involved.

We still have a few image gaps to fill. If you can help please get in touch.

Enter interactive key to Malvaceae
Getting started - tips for identification 

For general navigation and use of LUCID-based keys, please see the guidelines to Neotropikey.

More specific to the Malvoideae-key, below are the characters we have found most useful:

  • Epicalyx presence - this will split the genera almost in half. NB! The epicalyx can, however, be very difficult to see as it can be very small, thin and/or disguised with dense hair.
  • The epicalyx lobes vary from three to many, fimbriate to leafy, small to large, and it can have very distinctive forms.
  • Calyx costae - presence or absence of nerves and number.
  • Leaves - size, margin, petiole length, presence or absence of extrafloral nectaries and their position.
  • Stipules - shape, size and persistence.
  • Flowers - number of styles, position of anthers, and exertion or inclusion of the androecium in relation to the petals.
  • Fruit and seed characters -the number of mericarps per schizocarp and seeds per mericarp; the arrangement of the seeds within each mericarp (whether free or held in cells); the ornamentation of both mericarps and seeds.

NB ! Please make sure to use the images for both character states and genera; and the Neotropikey glossary for any tricky terms.


Technical support, input and advice: We gratefully acknowledge the help and advice of Mathew Taylor (CBIT, University of Queensland); Jovita Yesilyurt (Natural History Museum, London); John Wood (Oxford University); Guillaume Danielou, William Milliken, James Morley, Jeff Wheatley (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).

Images: The following individuals provided images for the key: Dennis Stevenson (New York Botanical Garden, USA); John Wood (Oxford University); Denise Sasaki (Programa Flora Cristalino); Paulina Hechenleitner (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh); Nicky Biggs, Sara Edwards, Sue Frisby, Peter Gasson, David Hunt, Bente Klitgaard, Sven Landrein, William Milliken, Oliver Whaley (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).

The Malvoideae key team at Kew
  • Nicky Biggs
  • Sara Edwards
  • Sue Frisby
  • Bente Klitgaard