Neotropical Bataceae

Cassia Mônica Sakuragui

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, R.J. Brazil.


Perennial, herbs, shrublets or shrubs.  Stem prostrate or ascendingLeaves fleshy, opposite, decussate, simple, sessile, linear to clavate, yellow-green to green, margin entire; stipules (sometimes called colleters) rudimentary, unvascularised, intrapetiolar or cauline, caducous.  Plant monoecious or dioeciousInflorescences usually axillary, densely spicate, strobilate, conical, with flowers in four ranks.  Flowers bracteate (bracts cochleariform and imbricate in male inflorescences, smaller and partially incorporated in the fleshy female spike), small, unisexual, actinomorphic; staminate flowers 2-whorled, calyx with 4 sepals, blunt-lobed, cupuliform or campanulate, enveloping the flowers, bilabiate; corolla with 4 petals, clawed, stamens 4, free, alternating with the tepals, anthers dorsifixed, dehiscent by longitudinal slits, introrse; pistillate flowers with bracts and perianth lacking; gynoecium syncarpous, carpels 2, locules 4 by the presence of a false septum, placentation basal, ovules 2 per carpel, collateral, epitropic, stigmas 2, sessile, capitate -penicillate.  Fruit an aggregate or a drupe with four pyrenes; seed coat membranous.

Notes on delimitation

  • Bataceae have been considered related to many different families and orders of angiosperms, and even gymnosperms (see Mabry, 1977; Cronquist, 1981; Takhtajan, 1997).
  • According to recent studies (Bayer & Appel, 2002; Rodman et al. 1993, 1998; Ronse de Craene, 2005) the Bataceae are phylogenetically related to several families that produce glucosinolates.  Molecular phylogenies have resolved Bataceae with Salvadoraceae and Koeberliniaceae in an expanded Brassicales.

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • The family is monogeneric and represented by two species: B. maritima L. and B. argillicola P. Royen.  Only B. maritima occurs in the Neotropics.
  • B. maritima: Tropical and subtropical coasts of America and the Pacific Islands, from California to Peru and Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands; in the Atlantic from California to Brazil and the Antilles.

Distinguishing characters (always present)

  • Halophytic habit with opposite, small, entire, fleshy leaves that have minute stipules, often described as colleters.
  • Flowers are staminate or carpellate.
  • Inflorescences of flowers aggregated into dense, spicate, conical, more or less strobilate inflorescences, axillary, with flowers in four ranks.

Other important characters

  • In the neotropics, the native species is dioecious.

Number of genera

  • 1 genus: Batis (B. maritma and B. argillicola) in the neotropics, the native species is dioecious.

Useful tips for generic identification



  • B. maritima is native.

General notes

  • Both species are ecologically important for regeneration of mangrove areas.
  • B. argillicola is limited to the coasts of Southern New Guinea and Northern Australia.

Important literature

APG II. 2003. An Update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group Classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 141: 399-436.

APG III. 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 105-121.

Bayer, C. & Appel, O. 2002. Bataceae. In: Kubitzki, K. (ed.), The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants vol. V. Flowering Plants. Dicotyledons. Malvales, Capparales and Non-betalain Caryophyllales, pp. 30-32. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Cronquist, A. 1981. The families and genera of flowering plants. Columbia University Press, New York.

Mabry, T.J. 1977. The order Centrospermae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 64: 210-220.

Rodman J.E., R.A. Price, K. Karol, E. Conti, K.J. Sytsma & J.D. Palmer. 1993. Nucleotide sequences of the rbcL gene indicate monophyly of mustard oil plants. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 80: 686-699.

Rodman J.E., P.S. Soltis, D.E. Soltis, K.J. Sytsma & K.G. Karol. 1998. Parallel evolution of glucosinolate biosynthesis inferred from congruent nuclear and plastid gene phylogenies. American Journal of Botany 85: 997-1006.

Ronse De Craene, L.P. 2005. Floral developmental evidence for the systematic position of Batis (Bataceae). American Journal of Botany 92(4): 752-760.

Takhtajan A. 1997. Diversity and classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press, New York.

How to cite

Sakuragui, C.M. (2011). Neotropical Bataceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.