Neotropical Goupiaceae

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

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


TreesLeaves alternate, distichous, simple, a few secondary veins strongly ascending, tertiary veins parallel and perpendicular to the midrib, margins serrate, drying black; stipules linear, soon falling off.  Inflorescences axillary, umbellate.  Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic, small; calyx 5-lobed, much smaller than the petals; petals 5, green to yellow, valvate, free, apical part inflexed; disc present; stamens 5, inserted at the margin of the disc, anthers dithecal, longitudinally dehiscent; ovary superior, 5-locular, styles 5, placentation axile, ovules several.  Fruits globose, red and ultimately black berries.  Seeds1-5.

Notes on delimitation

  • The Goupiaceae are placed in the Malpighiales in the APG III classification (Stevens, 2008; APG III, 2009).  In the past this family has mostly been included in Celastraceae (Cronquist 1982), which was placed in the Cornales, but Takhtajan (2009) included it as its own family in the Celastrales.

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • A monotypic family restricted to the Neotropics.
  • Goupia Aubl. (1-2 spp.) - throughout lowland rain forests in tropical South America and Panama.

Distinguishing characters (always present)

Other important characters

  • Stipules linear, soon falling.

Key differences from similar families

  • Differs from Celastraceae by the above mentioned features and the presence of 5 styles (versus 1 style) and the presence of a berry instead of a samara, drupe, or capsule.


  • Goupia is native in the Neotropics.
  • The genus is not cultivated.
  • Goupia glabra Aubl. is an important timber tree and used to make dugout canoes.
  • A decoction of the bark is used to treat tooth aches.

General notes

  • Dispersal endozoochoous.

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

Kearns, D.M. 1998. Celastraceae. In: Berry, P.E., Yatskievych, K. and Holst, B. (eds.). Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana vol. 4, pp. 190-193. Missouri Botanical Garden Press.

Maas, P.J.M. & Westra, L.Y.Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. A concise guide of vascular plants in the Neotropics. 3rd ed., p. 172, 174. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

Mitchell, J.D. 2004. Celastraceae. In: Smith, N.P., Mori, S.A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D.W., and Heald, S.V. (eds.). Flowering plants of the Neotropics. pp. 94-96. Princeton University Press, Oxford and Princeton.

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