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Apocynaceae A. L. Jussieu


Description from Flora of China

Trees, shrubs, or vines, rarely subshrubs or herbs, with latex or rarely watery juice. Leaves simple, opposite, rarely whorled or alternate, pinnately veined; stipules absent or rarely present. Inflorescences cymose, terminal or axillary, with bracteoles. Flowers bisexual, 5- [or 4]-merous, actinomorphic. Calyx 5- or rarely 4-partite, quincuncial, basal glands usually present. Corolla 5- or rarely 4-lobed, salverform, funnelform, urceolate, or rarely rotate, lobes overlapping to right or left, rarely valvate. Stamens 5 or rarely 4; filaments short; anthers mostly sagittate, free or connivent into a cone adherent to pistil head, dehiscing longitudinally, base rounded, cordate, sagittate, or prolonged into an empty spur; pollen granular; disc ringlike or cup-shaped, 2-5-lobed, or absent. Ovaries superior, rarely half-inferior, connate or distinct, 1- or 2-locular; ovules (1 or) 2-numerous per locule. Style 1; pistil head capitate, conical, or lampshade-shaped, base stigmatic, apex 2-cleft and not stigmatic. Fruit a berry, drupe, capsule, or follicle. Seeds with or without coma; endosperm thick and often horny, scanty, sometimes absent; embryo straight or nearly so, cotyledons often large, radicle terete.

About 155 genera and 2000 species distributed primarily in the tropics and subtropics, poorly represented in the temperate regions. Of the 44 genera and 145 species present in China, one genus and 38 species are endemic, and nearly 95% of the taxa grow in the southern and southwestern portions of the country.

Fruit type is highly diversified in the family, and it is diagnostic of many genera. Genera 1-4 produce 1, 2-celled berries from a flower; genus 5 produces 2, 1-celled berries from a flower; 6 and 7 produce mostly fleshy follicles containing deeply indented seeds with ruminate endosperm; 8 has follicles and winged seeds; 9 produces follicles and seeds with 2 comas; 10-12 have follicles with globose seeds; 13-18 have drupes mostly with fleshy mesocarp; 19 has samaroid fruit; 20 has spiny capsules with seeds winged all around; and 21-44 have free or fused follicles and comose seeds. Double flowers are known only from cultivated forms of Nerium oleander, Tabernaemontana divaricata, and Wrightia religiosa.

Plants of the Apocynaceae are often poisonous and are rich in alkaloids or glycosides, especially in the seeds and latex. Some species are valuable sources of medicine, insecticides, fibers, and rubber.

Tsiang Ying & Li Ping-tao. 1977. Apocynaceae. Fl. Reipubl. Popularis Sin. 63: 1-249.

(Authors: Li Ping-tao; Antony J. M. Leeuwenberg, David J. Middleton)

  • List of lower taxa


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