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Family Celastraceae

Synonyms: Brexiaceae APNI*
Plagiopteraceae APNI*
Stackhousiaceae APNI*
Lepuropetalaceae APNI*
Parnassiaceae APNI*

Description: Trees, shrubs (sometimes scrambling), lianas or annual or perennial herbs or subshrubs. Bisexual, monoecious, dioecious, andromonoecious, gynodioecious or polygamous. Sometimes deciduous. Stems unarmed or with thorns, rarely branches terminating in sharp points. Indumentum various.

Leaves alternate, opposite or sub-opposite, occasionally ± whorled or (not in N.S.W.) in basal rosettes or in fascicles on short shoots, rarely scale-like or absent, simple, usually petiolate; margins various; venation pinnate; domatia sometimes present in axils of larger leaves; stipules absent, or minute and often falling early.

Inflorescence axillary or terminal, cymose or racemose (racemes, panicles, spike-like or umbel-like), thyrsoid, or flowers solitary; usually bracteate. Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic, bisexual or unisexual, sometimes with a short or cup-shaped hypanthium (Macregoria, Stackhousia). Sepals (2–) 3–5, free or connate, imbricate or valvate. Petals 3–5, free or fused in middle into a tube, imbricate, rarely valvate. Stamens mostly 2–5, sometimes (not in Australia) up to 10 or more, alternate with petals, rarely alternating with staminodes; filaments free or connate to inner wall of nectariferous disc, inserted on or beneath nectariferous disc; anthers 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits or (not in N.S.W.) transverse or oblique slits, rarely apical. Nectariferous disc various, usually conspicuous. Ovary superior, sometimes partly or completely immersed in nectariferous disc; carpels 2–5, connate; locules (1–)2–5(–10). Style prominent, short or obsolete, sometimes surrounded at base by a cup; stigmas as many as carpels, simple or lobed. Ovules (1–)2–many per locule; placentation various.

Fruit a loculicidal (sometimes strongly 3-lobed) or septicidal capsule, or a schizocarp with up to 5 nutlets (cocci), a drupe, or (not in N.S.W.) a berry with seeds embedded in pulp or a samara. Seeds 1–many, smooth or sometimes furrowed, often with an orange or red aril, sometimes winged.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 98 genera, c. 1240 species, widespread in tropical & temperate regions. Australia: 22 genera, c. 71 species, with more likely to be described in the future, Qld, N.S.W., N.T., W.A.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Celastraceae, Order: Celastrales)

Text by T. A. James. Updated by Kerry Gibbons, 16-22 May 2023.
Taxon concept: APG IV; Flora NSW, Flora of Australia Online [accessed 19 May 2023], KeyBase [accessed 16 May 2023], Kew Plants of the World Online [accessed 19 May 2023]; Australian Plant Census [accessed 22 May 2023].

 Key to the genera 
1Annuals or perennial subshrubs with woody rootstocks and soft-wooded stems2
Trees, woody shrubs or lianes3
2Petals fused in middle into tube; stamens 3 long, 2 short; anthers not gland-tipped; style not surrounded by membranous cupStackhousia
Petals free; stamens 5, equal; anthers gland-tipped; style surrounded above ovary by membranous cup
                       Back to 1
3Leaves opposite or nearly so4
Leaves alternate
                       Back to 1
4Climbing shrubs or vines; stamens mostly 3; fruit a capsule, several-seededHippocratea
Erect shrubs or trees; stamens mostly 4; fruit a drupe, 1-seeded
                       Back to 3
5Fruit a hard fleshy drupe, indehiscentSiphonodon
Fruit a capsule, dehiscent
                       Back to 3
6Scandent shrubs or vines; flowers unisexual, plants dioecious; branches with conspicuous lenticelsCelastrus
Erect shrubs or trees; flowers bisexual; branches without conspicuous lenticels
                       Back to 5
7Capsules 5-locular with 5 valves; flowers reddish purpleHedraianthera
Capsules 2–4-locular with 2–4 valves; flowers whitish or greenish yellow
                       Back to 6
8Flowers solitary; leaves sessile, needle-likeApatophyllum
Flowers few to many, in cymes or racemes; leaves petiolate, not needle-like
                       Back to 7

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