Neotropical Anisophylleaceae

Ghillean T. Prance

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK. 


Trees or shrubs. Leaves simple, heterophyllous, in spirals or alternate, or four ranked, the margins entire, secondary veins palmately veined (3-5-plinerved). Stipules absent or minute. Inflorescence of axillary racemes or panicles. Flowers monoecious; calyx 4-lobed; petals 4, valvate, clawed or laciniate in Anisophyllea R.Br. ex Sabine; anthers 8, in two whorls, obdiplosteminous; epigynoous disc present; ovary inferior, 4-carpelled, syncarpous, ovules 1-2 per carpel, pendulous; styles 4. Fruit indehiscent, dry or drupe or a samara, one seeded (in Polygonanthus Ducke); germination hypogeal. n = 7, 8.

Notes on delimitation

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • Pantropical with four genera, two of which are Neotropical.

Distinguishing characters (always present)

Few defining characters:

  • Leaves often drying yellowish and often asymmetrical at base
  • Palmate venation
  • Clawed or lacinate petals in Anisophyllea
  • Winged samara in Polygonanthus

Useful tips for generic identification

Key to genera of Neotropical Anisophyllaceae

1. Petals laciniate or clawed; fruit a capsuleAnisophyllea
1. Petals simple not clawed; fruit a samara…Polygonanthus


  • Native
  • Polygonanthus endemic to Brazilian Amazonia
  • Anisophyllea also occurs in the Old World

Important literature

Schwarbach, A. E. 2000. Systematic affinities of Rhizophoraceae and Anisophyllaceae, and intergeneric relationships within the Rhizophoraceae, based on chloroplast DNA, nuclear ribosomal DNA, and morphology. Am. Jour. Bot. 87:547-564.

How to cite

Prance, G.T. (2009). Neotropical Anisophylleaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.