Neotropical Phyllonomaceae

Jon L.R. Every

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK. 


Shrubs or small trees, terrestrial or epiphytic, often procumbent, glabrous throughout. Leaves simple, alternate, distichous, elliptic to narrowly ovate, margins entire to distinctly serrate; stipules small, caducous, with glandular hairs on the inner surface. Inflorescence epiphyllous on the adaxial surface near the leaf apex, cymose and branched or racemose and unbranched fascicles or false umbels. Flowers actinomorphic, 4-5-merous; calyx  minutely teethed, persistent in the mature fruit; corolla valvate in bud, reflexed at anthesis; stamens 5, alternipetalous, attached on the hypanthium; ovary inferior, carpels 2, style 1, bifid, connate or partially free; placentation parietal. Fruit berry, unilocular, white at maturity; seeds 2-9.

Notes on delimitation

  • Placed in the Aquifoliales in the APG II classification (APG 2003), but was until recently included in the Hydrangeales (Takhajan 1997). Phyllonoma Willd. ex Schult. has also been placed in the Grossulariaceae (Cronquist 1981).

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • From Mexico and Central America in the North to Andean Bolivia in the South; montane at elevations from 1,000-3,000m.

Distinguishing characters (always present)

  • Inflorescences epiphyllous, borne at various positions on the adaxial surface of the leaf blade. This feature differentiates Phyllonomaceae from any other Neotropical Angiosperm family.

Other important characters

  • Leaf characters and inflorescence position vary greatly.
  • Toothed and entire leaves occur in the same population and often on the same branch.
  • Inflorescence can be found at the base of the leaf point or in the middle of the leaf blade.

Key differences from similar families

Number of genera

1 genus: Phyllonoma Willd. ex  Schult. (4 species).


  • Native.

Important literature

APG. 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.

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

Fagerstrom, K. 2004. Phyllonomaceae, pp. 85-87, in Harling, G. W., Flora of Ecuador no. 73., Opera Botanica, Gothenborg, Sweden.

Heywood, V.H., R.K. Brummitt, Culham, A. and Seberg, O. (eds.). Flowering plant families of the world, p.252. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Maas, P. J. M. & Westra, L. Y. Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. 3rd ed. P. 132. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

Mori, S. A., & Kallunki J. A. 1977. A revision of the genus Phyllonoma (Grossulariaceae). Brittonia 29:69-84.

Mori, S. A. 2004. Phyllonomaceae. Pp 291-2. In: Smith, N., Mori, S. A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D. W. and Heald, S. V. (eds.). Flowering Plants of the Neotropics. The New York Botanical Garden, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

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

Takhtajan, A. 1997. Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press, New York.

How to cite

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