Neotropical Cardiopteridaceae

Jon L.R. Every

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK. 


Trees or shrubs occasionally climbing (Citronella D.Don.); All parts lepidote-stellate or indumentum of simple hairs. Leaves simple, alternate, distichous, margin entire, occasionally serrate with small domatia abaxially (Citronella), drying black (Dendrobangia Rusby). Inflorescence terminal or axillary, paniculate or cymose. Flowers bisexual or occasionally polygamous (Citronella), glomerulate, actinomorphic, pentamerous; calyx 5 lobed, imbricate; corolla free or gamopetalous; stamens 5, alternipetalous, ovary superior, syncarpous, unilocular, ovules 2, stigma minute, style short. Fruit drupes, exocarp lepidote-stellate becoming glabrous, mesocarp fleshy, endocarp hard. Seed 1, endosperm abundant.

Notes on delimitation

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • Dendrobangia c. 2-3 species in Costa Rica extending to the Guianas and Brazil, Peru and Bolivia.
  • Citronella c. 10 species in Costa Rica to S. Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Number of genera

2 Neotropical genera:

  • Citronella
  • Dendrobangia

Notable genera and distinguishing features

  • Dendrobangia: Conspicuous peltate scales with fringed margins cover stems, leaves, inflorescences and external parts of the flowers. Dries black.
  • Citronella: Large pores usually present on leaf undersurface near midrib or in vein axils.


  • Native with some species of Citronella cultivated.

Important literature

Kårehed, J. 2001. Multiple origin of the tropical forest tree family Icacinaceae. American J. Bot. 88: 2259-2274.

Pennington, T.D. 2004. Illustrated guide to the trees of Peru, p.465-67. David Hunt. Milborne Port Sherborne.  

De Roon, A. C. and Mori, S. A.. 2002. Icacinaceae. In Mori, S. A. , Gracie, C. A. , Cremers, G. , de Granville, J. J. , Heald, S. V. , Hoff, M. and Mitchell, J. D. Guide to the vascular plants of Central French Guiana, part 2. Dicotyledons, Pp.358-60. The New York Botanical Garden Press, New York.

Steyermark, J. A. Berry, P. E. Yatskievych, K. and Holst, B. K. .1999. Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana, volume 5, p.649. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St. Louis.         

Stevens, P. F. (2008). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 onwards.

How to cite

Every, J.L.R. (2009). Neotropical Cardiopteridaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.