Neotropical Escalloniaceae

Paul J.M. Maas & Hiltje Maas-van de Kamer

National Herbarium of the Netherlands (Wageningen branch), Wageningen, the Netherlands.


Shrubs or trees, terrestrial, rarely epiphytic; stems often with exfoliating bark; stipules usually absent.  Leaves alternate, simple, margins entire or often with glandular teeth.  Inflorescences mostly terminal racemes or panicles, or axillary and of solitary flowers.  Flowers actinomophic, bisexual; calyx campanulate, 5-lobed; petals 5, free, imbricate, often spathulate; stamens 5, free, anthers dithecal, longitudinally dehiscent, basifixed; intrastaminal disc present, surrounding the base of the style; ovary inferior, 2-3-locular, placentation axile, ovules many, style 1, stigmas 1-3.  Fruits septicidal capsules.  Seeds many, small, striate.

Notes on delimitation

  • The family Escalloniaceae is placed in a monotypic order Escalloniales in the APG III classification (Stevens, 2008; APG III, 2009).  In the past it has been placed in Saxifragaceae (Sleumer 1968) and Grossulariaceae (Cronquist 1981); and Takhtajan (2009) placed it in the order Desfontainiales.

Distribution in the Neotropics

Worldwide, except Africa, the Escalloniaceae comprise 7 genera and 129 species, 2 genera and about 40 species in the Neotropics.

  • Escallonia Mutis ex L.f. (39 spp. of which 22 are found in the Neotropics) - Central America, Andean South America from Colombia to S Argentina, and SE Brazil.
  • Valdivia Remy (1 sp.) - in extra-neotropical Central Chile.

Distinguishing characters (always present)

Other important characters


  • The genus Escallonia is native in the Neotropics and the USA.
  • Valdivia is endemic to Central Chile.

General notes

  • Locally the wood of Escallonia is used for fuel, charcoal, and timber.
  • Escallonia species are cultivated throughout the world as ornamentals for their attractive leaves, exfoliating bark, and sweet scent.
  • It is often dominant in Andean forests at high elevations.  The highest species diversity of Escallonia is found in Chile and Argentina.

Important literature

A.P.G. III. 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Bot. J. Linnean Soc. 161: 105-121.

Cronquist, A. 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press. New York

Maas, P.J.M. & Westra, L.Y.Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. A concise guide of vascular plants in the Neotropics. 3rd ed., p. 293. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

Mori, S.A. 2004. Escalloniaceae. In: Smith, N.P., Mori, S.A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D.W., and Heald, S.V.  (eds.). Flowering plants of the Neotropics. pp. 145-146. Princeton University Press, Oxford and Princeton.

Sleumer, H. 1968. Die Gattung Escallonia (Saxifragaceae). Verh. Kon. Ned. Akad. Wetensch., Afd. Natuurk. Ser. 2. 58(2): 1-146.

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

Takhtajan, A. 1997. Flowering Plants. Second edition. Springer.

How to cite

Maas, P.J.M. & Maas-van de Kamer, H. (2012). Neotropical Escalloniaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.