Neotropical Elaeocarpaceae

Daniela Sampaio

Universidade de São Paulo, ESALQ, Piracicaba, Brazil. 


Trees, shrubs or herbs. Trunks sometimes with buttresses. Leaves alternate, opposite or whorled; simple or compound; stipules persistent, caducous or absent. Inflorescence simple or compound, axillary or terminal. Flowers mostly hermaphrodite, rarely unisexual, actinomorphic; sepals 4-11, free or partly united, valvate; petals 4-5 or absent, free or partly united, valvate; stamens 4 to numerous, free, sometimes into the swollen receptacle; anthers with 2-apical pores, sometimes the connective is continued into a small knob-like, thick, obtuse or filiform awn; ovary superior, with 2 to many locules, with 1 to many pendulous ovules; style simple, lobed or slender. Fruit a capsule or berry-like drupe, armed or smooth. Seeds 1 to many per locule, sometimes arillate.

Notes on delimitation

  • The Elaeocarpaceae was placed within the order Oxalidales (APG I, 1998, APG II, 2003, APH III, 2009) together with Cephalotaceae, Connaraceae, Cunoniaceae, Oxalidaceae, Brunelliaceae (APG II, 2003) and Huaceae (APG III, 2009).  In order to consider Elaeocarpaceae as monophyletic, the Tremandraceae was included in synonymy.  Crayn et al. (2006) demosntrated that Sloanea is a monophyletic sister-group of the clade formed by Vallea and Aristotelia. In the same study, Crinodendron was also considered as monophyletic, and forming a sister-group with Peripentadenia.

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • Crinodendron Molina: Chile, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina (endemic to South America).
  • Sloanea L.: Central and South America.
  • Vallea Mutis ex L.f.: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia (endemic to South America).

Distinguishing characters (always present)

  • There are no characters which are ALWAYS present.

Number of genera

  • 3 genera: Crinodendron, Sloanea, Vallea.

Useful tips for generic identification

  • In the New World, only the genus Sloanea has sepals, while Crinodendron and Vallea have sepals and petals.
  • The fruits of Sloanea are armed or smooth woody capsules; in Crinodendron the fruits are dehiscent and winged, and in Vallea they are fleshy and berry -like.

Notable genera and distinguishing features



  • All taxa listed are native.
  • The genus Elaeocarpus L. is cultivated in Brazil.

Important literature

Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (A.P.G.) 1998.  An ordinal classification for the families of flowering plants.  Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard., 85, p. 531-533.

Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (A.P.G. II) 2003.  An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APGII.  Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 141, p. 399-436.

Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (A.P.G. III) 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APGII.  Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161 (2): 105-121.

Crayn, D.M., Rosseto, M. Maynard, D.J. 2006.  Molecular phylogeny and dating reveals an Oligo-Miocene radiation of dry-adapted shrubs (former Tremandraceae) from rainforest tree progenitors (Elaeocarpaceae) in Australia.  America Journal of Botany, 93 (9): 1328-1342.

Sampaio, D. 2009.  Revisão das espécies neotropicais extra-amazônicas de Sloanea L. (Elaeocarpaceae) na América do Sul.  Tese de Doutorado.  Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP, Campinas, SP, Brasil. 170p.Sampaio, D., Souza, V.C. 2010.  New species of Sloanea (Elaeocarpaceae) from the Brazilian Cerrado (savanna).  Rodriguesia. (submitted).

How to cite

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