Category: Blog


Published: March 13, 2012

All 283 Neotropical flowering plant Families, ALMOST

Nancy Hensold, Tropical Plant Scientist, Keller Science Action Center


I just finished adding some new genera so that we have representation of  ALMOST all the 283 currently recognized flowering plant families in the Neotropics (-- following the classification of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, 2009). These are all scanned and will go live within a few months. I thought it interesting that most of the oddball families I had to run down were native to (1) the deserts of northern Mexico, (2) the mountain forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala, (3) the southern cone of South America, or (4) Venezuelan Guayana; OR had strange ecological preferences: root parasites, marine aquatics, halophytes, carnivores. 

Note: Our data don’t currently reflect this number of families, because we haven’t yet updated the database to the new classification. For example, we still have the spider plant Cleome included in the caper family, Capparidaceae, though they are now separate -- and we still have the milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae separate from the periwinkles, Apocynaceae, though they're now together.  The number of changes necessary are massive. We hope to get converted or have new search options available soon.

Here’s a list of the newly scanned additions.
(This list doesn’t include "new" families for which we already had scans.)


Corsiaceae: Arachnitis, a root parasite from Bolivia (Was in Burmanniaceae)

Cymodoceaceae: Halodule & Syringodium, marine aquatics

Melanthiaceae: Anticlea [Stenanthium], and Schoenocaulon, sedgy looking herbs, Mexico to Venezuela (Previously Liliaceae)

Nartheciaceae: Nietneria, another sedgy looking herb from Venezuela (prev. Liliaceae)

Tecophilaeaceae: Bulbous herbs, mostly coastal Chile but creeping up to Lima, Peru (prev. Amaryllidaceae)

Taccaceae: One genus, Tacca, Guianas (previously Dioscoreaceae)

Thismiaceae: Thismia, a tiny root parasite (previously Burmanniaceae)


I’m still missing Strelitziaceae, the Bird-of-Paradise family. There is one Neotropical genus, Phenakospermum, and they are too big to scan. About one-eighth of a leaf blade to a sheet.



Altingiaceae: Liquadambar, the Sweet-Gum tree, from Mexico (prev. Hamamelidaceae)

Anacampserotaceae: Grahamia, a succulent-leaved herb from Texas, Mexico, and Argentina (previously in Talinopsis in the Portulaceae)

Calyceraceae: Acicarpha, Boopis, Calycera [Photo: Calycera calcitrapa]. Herbs with flowers in head-like clusters; mostly southern South America.

Canellaceae: Shrubs, Canella (mostly Caribbean) and Capsicodendron (Mata Atlantica of Brazil) -- the cinnamon family

Crossosomataceae: Glossopetalon (Forsellesia), thorny-branched shrubs from dry areas in Mexico (sometimes placed in Celastraceae)

Cytinaceae: Bdallophytum, root parasites on trees of Burseraceae, Mexico (previously Rafflesiaceae)

Euphroniaceae: Euphronia, Trees of the Guiana region (was Trigoniaceae)

Frankeniaceae: Creeping dwarf shrubs of the Andes and the southwestern coast of South America

Gelsemiaceae: Gelsemium, a vining shrub from Mexico & Mostuea, a shrub from Surinam to Sao Paulo, Brazil (previously Loganiaceae)

Griselinaceae: Griselinia, shrubs of the “southern cone” of South America, reaching up to the southern Mata Atlantica of Brazil. (prev. Cornaceae)

Guamatelaceae: Guamatela tuerckheimii, shrubs of Mexico and Guatemala, looking a bit like a thornless raspberry. (Previously Rosaceae)

Halophytaceae: Halophytum, succulent salt-loving herbs of Argentina (previously Chenopodiaceae or Aizoaceae)

Hydnoraceae: Prosopanche, aclorophyllous root parasites of Costa Rica and southern South America.

Iteaceae: Pterostemon, a shrub from Mexico (previously Saxifragaceae)

Koeberliniaceae: Koeberlinia spinosa, N. Mexico, and K. holacantha, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Spiny-stemmed shrubs of dry areas. (Previously Capparaceae)

Mitrastemonaceae: Mitrastemon matudae - Root parasites, Mexico to Colombia (prev. Rafflesiaceae)

Nitrariaceae: Peganum, a spiny shrub of Northeastern Mexico (Previously Zygophyllaceae)

Peridiscaceae: Peridiscus, one species of tree from Amazonian Brazil. The genus Whittonia is known from one collection from Guyana, and we don’t have it! (Prev. Flacourtiaceae)

Petenaeaceae: Petenaea cordata, a shrub of Guatemala and Mexico (Prev. Elaeocarpaceae)

Platanaceae: A mostly temperate tree family; Platanus known from Mexico and Central America.

Plocospermataceae: Plocosperma buxifolium, a shrub of Central America -- we already had it (as Loganiaceae) but now a flowering specimen too.

Thesiaceae: Optionally treated in the Santalaceae, but Nickrent (2010) treats as separate. Thesium,  a broom-like hemiparasite of Brazil and Venezuela.

Sarraceniaceae: Heliamphora, carnivorous pitcher plant of Venezuelan tepui summits.

Schisandraceae: Illicium, a fragrant shrub of Mexico and Antilles (previously Magnoliaceae). An Asian species is the source of star-anise.

Setchellanthaceae: Setchellanthus caeruleus, yet another spiny shrub endemic to Mexico (previously Capparaceae).

Simmondsiaceae: Simmondsia (jojoba), a succulent shrub of Baja California - not quite neotropical.

Tetrachondraceae: Polypremum procumbens, a weedy chickweed-like herb (previously Loganiaceae)


Alas, we don’t have Haptanthus in the Haptanthaceae, a single species of shrub from Honduras, but on the basis of DNA analysis this was included in the Buxaceae in 2011.


Also missing is Gumillea auriculata Ruiz & Pav., a shrub collected in Huanuco, Peru by Ruiz & Pavon. No one has seen it since, and no one knows what family it is.

Nancy Hensold
Tropical Plant Scientist, Keller Science Action Center

Nancy processes and identifies Neotropical vascular plant collections, in conjunction with the Action Center's Rapid Biological Inventories in South America. She also maintains the Neotropical Herbarium Specimens website, a plant identification tool for non-specialists, and pursues original research on tropical Pipeworts (Eriocaulaceae).