Neotropical Styracaceae

Peter W. Fritsch

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA. 


Trees or shrubs, usually evergreen. Indument of stellate hairs or radiate or peltate scales. Stipules absent. Leaves alternate, simple, entire or rarely glandular-serrate or lobed, venation pinnate. Inflorescences axillary or terminal, usually racemose or paniculate, rarely cymose, bracteoles present. Flowers actinomorphic or rarely slightly zygomorphic, bisexual or occasionally unisexual (then plants gynodioecious), hypanthium present, inconspicuous, adnate basally to ovary; calyx synsepalous, generally campanulate or cupuliform, usually with 5 small teeth; corolla sympetalous, campanulate, usually white, less often pink or flushed with pink, or rarely yellow, becoming lobed at same level at which corolla becomes free from androecium, lobes usually 5 (rarely more), nearly always longer than tube, frequently recurved to strongly reflexed, valvate or rarely imbricate in bud, pubescent; androecium usually with twice as many stamens as corolla lobes, rarely more or equal in number, stamens in 1 series, adnate to corolla proximally, free and often forming tube for some distance distally, inner face of filaments typically pubescent, the pubescence evenly distributed along surface or aggregated into dense mass sometimes covering pair of longitudinally oriented auricles, anthers basifixed, oblong to linear, longitudinally dehiscent; staminodes present in pistillate flowers; gynoecium syncarpous, ovary subinferior, 3-carpellate, with 3 septa at base but 1-locular through distal attenuation of septa, style 1, simple, filiform, hollow; placentation essentially axile, rarely basal, ovules 1-c. 8 per carpel, bitegmic; placental obturators usually present. Fruits usually drupes, rarely capsules or nutlike, calyx and hypanthium persistent, drupes dark purple, capsules dehiscing by 3 valves. Seeds nearly always 1, completely filling fruit cavity, surrounded by usually purplish-flecked endocarp (in species with drupes), seed coat brown, usually minutely reticulate, thick and hard; endosperm copious, cotyledons usually flattened or rarely nearly terete (this modified from Smith et al., 2004, Flowering Plants of the Neotropics, Princeton Univ Press--my treatment)

Notes on delimitation

  • Placed solidly in the order Ericales sensu APG II. Evidence indicates that the Styracaceae are sister to the Diapensiaceae.

Distribution in the Neotropics

  • One genus: Styrax. Distributed throughout the Neotropics.

Distinguishing characters (always present)

  • Trees or shrubs, stellate or scale-like hairs present, leaves alternate, simple, without stipules, corolla sympetalous, campanulate; anthers adnate to corolla, stamens technically biseriate or uniseriate but always appearing uniseriate; 3-carpellate.

Other important characters

Key differences from similar families

Number of genera

  • Styrax L.


  • Native.

Important literature

Fritsch, P.W. 1997. A revision of Styrax (Styracaceae) from western Texas, Mexico, and Mesoamerica. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 84: 705-761.

Fritsch, P.W. 1999. Phylogeny of Styrax based on morphological characters, with implications for biogeography and infrageneric classification. Systematic Botany 24: 355-378.

Fritsch, P.W. 1999. Styracaceae. In: P. M. Jørgensen & S. León-Yánez (eds), Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador, p. 922. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Fritsch, P.W. Styracaceae. 2000. Flora Mesoamericana Volume 4. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D. F. Available on-line at

Fritsch, P.W. 2001. Phylogeny and biogeography of the flowering plant genus Styrax (Styracaceae) based on chloroplast DNA restriction sites and DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer region. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 19: 387-408.

Fritsch, P.W. 2003. Multiple geographic origins of Antillean Styrax. Systematic Botany 28: 421-430.

Fritsch, P.W. 2003. Styracaceae.  In: N. Smith, S. A. Mori, A. Henderson, D. Wm. Stevenson, & S. V. Heald (eds), Flowering Plants of the Neotropics, pp. 362-363. The New York Botanical Garden and Princeton University Press, Bronx and Princeton.

Fritsch, P.W. 2003. Revision of 11 taxa of Styracaceae. In: Gamarra Rojas, C.F.L. Mesquita, A.C. de Sothers, C. Mayo, S.J. & Barbosa, M.R.V. (eds), Checklist das plantas do Nordeste, Centro Nordestino de informações sobre plantas. CNIP, Recife. Internet publication on website:

Fritsch, P. W. 2004. Styracaceae. In: K. Kubitzki (ed.), The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, pp. 434-442. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Fritsch, P. W. 2004. New species and taxonomic changes in Styrax (Styracaceae) from South America. Novon 14: 43-57.

Fritsch, P. W. 2005. A new species of Styrax (Styracaceae) from southern Mexico. Novon 15: 421-424.

Fritsch, P. W. 2005. Styracaceae. In: T. F. Daniel (ed.), Flora of Chiapas, Part 6, pp. 24-32. California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.

Fritsch, P. W., C. M. Morton, C. T. Chen, and C. Meldrum. 2001. Phylogeny and biogeography of the Styracaceae. International Journal of Plant Sciences 162(S6): S95-S116.

Fritsch, P. W., S. A. Mori, and J. L. Brown. 2002. Styracaceae. In: S. A. Mori, G. Cremers, C. A. Gracie, J.-J. de Granville, S. V. Heald, M. Hoff, & J. D. Mitchell (eds), Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana. Part 2. Dicotyledons. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 76(2): 706-708.

Fritsch, P. W. and J. A. Steyermark. 2005. Styracaceae. In: P. E. Berry, K. Yatskievych, & B. K. Holst (eds), Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana, Volume 9, pp. 283-289. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Fritsch, P. W. 2008. Styracaceae. In Zuloaga, F. O., O. Morrone, & M. J. Belgrano (eds), Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of the Southern Cone (Argentina, Southern Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay), Vol. 3, pp. 3064-3067. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Fritsch, P. W. In press. Styracaceae. In P. M. Jørgensen (ed.), Catalogue of Vascular Plants of Bolivia. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

Fritsch, P. W. In Press. Styracaceae. In R. Callejas and M. Montiel (eds.), Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of the Department of Antioquia, Colombia. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Fritsch, P. W. In press. Styracaceae. In: R. Bernal (ed.), Catalogue of the plants of Colombia. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

Loeulle, B., P. W. Fritsch, and J. R. Pirani. 2008. Flora da Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais: Styracaceae. Boletim de Botânica da Universidade de Sâo Paulo 26: 175-182.

Maas, P.J.M. and L. Y. Th. Westra. 1998. Familias de plantas Neotropicales. Koeltz.

Mai, D. H. 2003. Styracaceae. In Flora de la República de Cuba, Fasc. 7. A. R. Gantner Verlag KG, Ruggell, Liechtenstein.

Perkins, J. 1907. Styracaceae. In Das Pflanzenreich, ed. A. Engler, ser. 4, 241 (heft 30): 1-111. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann. Fritsch, P. W. 2004. Styracaceae. In: Smith et al., Flowering plants of the Neotropics.

Wallnöfer, B. 1997. A revision of Styrax L. section Pamphilia (Mart. ex A. DC.) B. Walln. (Styracaceae). Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien 99B: 681-720.

How to cite

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