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Synonyms: Bischofiaceae APNI*

Description: Herbs, shrubs, trees or rarely climbers, monoecious or dioecious; milky latex often present.

Leaves mostly alternate, sometimes 2-ranked, usually simple, rarely reduced to scales; stipules mostly present, often small.

Inflorescence chiefly axillary, sometimes complex but flowers often arranged in bundles or in apparent spikes or racemes or flowers solitary. Flowers actinomorphic, unisexual, sometimes reduced, floral parts hypogynous. Sepals and petals 4–6, sometimes petals absent or perianth not differentiated into sepals and petals. Male flowers with 1–many stamens, anthers 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits or seldom apical pores; rudimentary ovary sometimes present. Female flowers with superior ovary, usually 3-locular, ovules 1 in each loculus (each locule of ovary with 1 ovule), placentation axile; styles as many as the carpels, free or variously united, often branched; staminodes sometimes present.

Fruit mostly a 3-locular capsule, often schizocarpic, rarely a berry or a drupe; seeds often with a caruncle.

Distribution and occurrence: World: 218 genera, 6745 species, cosmopolitan, chiefly in tropical & subtropical regions. Australia: c. 58 genera, 230 species, all States.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Euphorbiaceae, Order: Malpighiales)

Euphorbiaceae as represented in the Flora of New South Wales Vol. 1 (1990) has since been split into 5 families: Euphorbiaceae s. str., Phyllanthaceae (includes Actephila, Breynia, Bridelia, Cleistanthus, Glochidion, Phyllanthus, Poranthera and Sauropus in New South Wales), Picrodendraceae (includes Pseudanthus, Micrantheum, Austrobuxus and Petalostigma in New South Wales), Putranjivaceae (Drypetes being the only genus in New South Wales) and Peraceae (not in Australia). Many members of the Euphorbiaceae s. str. are economically important. Rubber is produced from the latex of Hevea brasiliensis (Willd.) Muell. Arg.; castor oil from the seeds of Ricinus communis L.; tung oil, used in the paint industry, is produced from the seeds of Vernicia fordii (Hemsl.) Airy Shaw; the tuberous roots of Manihot esculenta Crantz, Bitter Cassava, are a staple food in tropical areas. A number of Euphorbia species are grown as ornamentals, especially E. pulcherrima Willd., Poinsettia, and E. milii Des Moul., Crown of Thorns. Many species are weeds, some are toxic to stock and humans.

The key below is for Euphorbiaceae s. lat. and includes Euphorbiaceae s. str. and genera now placed in Phyllanthaceae, Picrodendraceae and Putranjivaceae.

Text by T.A. James & G.J. Harden, ed. C. Herscovitch November 2007, ed. P.G. Kodela January, May 2017, Kerry Gibbons May 2023.
Taxon concept: Australian Plant Census (accessed May 2017)

Taxa not yet included in identification key

 Key to the genera 
1Either herbs or shrubs (rarely climbers) with either leaves less than 15 mm wide and with entire margins or leaves reduced to scales2
Either trees or shrubs (rarely climbers) with either leaves more than 15 mm wide or leaves less than 10 mm wide and the margins toothed21
2Inflorescence surrounded by an involucre and containing 1 female flower and 8–10 male flowers; perianth absent3
Involucre absent; male and female flowers with perianth
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3Stems erect; leaves usually alternate on lower stems, subopposite or opposite above; stipules minute or absentEuphorbia
Stems prostrate, decumbent or ascending; leaves opposite; stipules present, interpetiolar (former Chamaesyce taxa)
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4Adult stems leafless, scale leaves present on young stemsAmperea
Normal leaves developed on all stems
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5Plants with stellate hairs6
Plants glabrous or with simple hairs
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6Herbs with ovate to rhombic leaves, usually 20 mm or more wide, petiole at least as long as lamina7
Shrubs, or herbs with leaves not as above, 15 mm or less wide; shortly petiolate
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7Plants with a dense, velvety covering of stellate hairs; leaves entire; style 1, simple; capsule smoothEremocarpus
Plants with a sparse covering of stellate hairs; leaves entire or sinuate-toothed; styles 3, bifid; capsule covered with peltate scales
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8Flowers terminal (sometimes apparently axillary); sepals and petals usually present or rarely petals absent in female flowers9
Flowers axillary; perianth usually in 1 whorl or rarely petals reduced or absent
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9Leaves white-woolly with a dense covering of stellate hairs; stipules presentCroton
Leaves glabrous, scabrous or with rusty-stellate hairs; stipules absent
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10Styles either absent or if present then very short and fused, stigma simple, entire or lobed; fruit 3-seededBeyeria
Styles 3, obvious, 2–4-branched, stigmas separate; fruit usually 1-seeded
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11Stipules present, often minute; male flowers with 3–9 stamens12
Stipules absent; male flowers with numerous stamens
                       Back to 5
12Leaves in groups of 3 at each node, the groups alternate on the stem (see Picrodendraceae)Micrantheum
Leaves not as above, leaves either alternate, opposite or whorled
                       Back to 11
13Flowers terminal14
Flowers axillary
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14Inflorescence a raceme or corymb, the rachis elongated; anthers opening by terminal pores (see Phyllanthaceae)Poranthera
Inflorescence a dense cyme borne between the 2 terminal leaves at end of stems; anthers opening by longitudinal slits
                       Back to 13
15Female flowers enclosed by a large, rounded bract; leaves 20–40 mm long, toothed; petiole at least as long as laminaAcalypha
Female flowers not enclosed by a large bract; leaves to 30 mm long, rarely toothed; petiole shorter than lamina
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16Stamens 6; some leaves opposite, others alternate on the same plant (see Picrodendraceae)Pseudanthus
Stamens 3; leaves all alternate
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17Fruit dry, a schizocarpic capsule; styles bifid18
Fruit succulent, a berry; styles unbranched (see Phyllanthaceae)
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18Disc or glands present; fruit depressed-globose (see Phyllanthaceae)Phyllanthus
Disc or glands absent; fruit ovoid or more or less globose (see Phyllanthaceae)
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19Flowers mostly terminal; sepals and petals present, petals conspicuous and longer than the sepalsRicinocarpos
Flowers axillary; perianth in one whorl or the petals rudimentary and shorter than the sepals
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20Styles either absent or if present then very short and fused, stigma simple, entire or lobed; fruit 3-seededBeyeria
Styles 3, obvious, 2–4-branched, stigmas separate; fruit usually 1-seeded
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21Leaves with margins toothed, crenate or lobed22
Leaves with margins entire or almost so
                       Back to 1
22Leaves either unlobed or 3–5-lobed and then the lamina cut less than halfway towards base23
Leaves deeply palmately 3–9-lobed, if 3–5-lobed then the lamina cut at least three-quarters of the way towards base
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23Leaves opposite24
Leaves alternate
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24Leaves glabrous, finely toothed to crenate (see Picrodendraceae)Austrobuxus
Leaves hairy, coarsely toothed to more or less entire
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25Leaves with 1–5 small glands at apex of petiole or near base of lamina26
Leaves without glands on lamina or petiole
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26Plants with milky latex; young shoots and leaves glabrousExcoecaria
Plants without milky latex; young shoots and leaves mostly hairy or scaly
                       Back to 25
27Leaves palmately 3–5-veined from base, often palmately lobed; petiole about as long as the lamina28
Leaves pinnately veined, sometimes 3-veined in basal half; petiole usually shorter than lamina
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28Hairs stellate; ovary 1- or 2-locular; fruit with 1 or 2 seedsAleurites
Hairs simple; ovary 3–7-locular; fruit mostly with 3–7 seeds
                       Back to 27
29Petioles with 3–5, rarely 1 or 2, glands on upper surface near apex of petiole; young shoots pubescent, leaves glabrous or sparsely hairy, hairs simpleClaoxylon
Petioles with 2 glands at junction with lamina; young shoots and leaves with scales or stellate hairs or sometimes leaves glabrous
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30Climbers; leaves and stems with stinging hairsTragia
Shrubs or trees; stinging hairs absent
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31Leaves stiff, glabrous; trees or tall shrubs32
Leaves soft but firm, glabrous or hairy; shrubs less than 3 m high
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32Teeth spinose, margins with 2–4 pairs of teethAlchornea
Teeth not spinose, margins with more than 4 pairs of teeth or margins crenate
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33Bracts surrounding female flowers and fruits prominent, more or less circular, at least 4 mm and often more than 10 mm diam.; lamina either less than 20 mm long or if more than 20 mm long then pubescent with simple hairsAcalypha
Bracts not as above; lamina more than 20 mm long, mostly stellate-hairy, sometimes glabrous
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34Plants pubescent, sometimes hoary, occasionally glabrous; leaves often lobed; perianth segments 6 or 8, in 2 whorls, c. 6 mm long, not persistent in fruitAdriana
Plants densely tomentose; leaves unlobed; petals absent, calyx 6–9-lobed, persistent in fruit, lobes c. 9 mm long in fruit
                       Back to 33
35Margins of leaves toothed, lamina peltate, mostly 7–9-lobedRicinus
Margins of leaves not toothed, lamina not peltate, mostly 3–7-lobed
                       Back to 22
36Leaves 1-foliolate, with a swelling at apex of petiole and mostly with 2 glands near base of lamina; translucent dots visible in lamina (lens needed); leaves opposite or alternate37
Leaves simple, without a swelling at apex of petiole; glands absent or present near base of lamina or apex of petiole; leaves mostly alternate and without translucent dots
                       Back to 21
37Buds scaly, reddish brown, more or less glabrous; 2 small embedded glands on margin of lamina c. 3 mm from base; leaves oppositeBaloghia
Buds not scaly, finely pubescent with fawn hairs; 2 depressed glands usually on lower lamina surface 5–10 mm from base; adult leaves alternate
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38Leaves opposite39
Leaves alternate
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39Buds with scale leaves; plants more or less glabrous; leaves with petiole less than 10 mm long, secondary veins more than 10 pairsBaloghia
Buds without scale leaves, plants covered with stellate hairs; leaves with petiole usually more than 10 mm long, secondary veins less than 9 pairs
                       Back to 38
40Petioles more than 10 mm long; 1 or 2 glands often present near junction of petiole and lamina41
Petioles less than 10 mm long, often c. 5 mm long; glands absent or sometimes present in Croton
                       Back to 38
41Leaves peltate, petiole attached at least 10 mm in from margin; leaves palmately 9-veinedMacaranga
Leaves not peltate or if peltate then petiole attached less than 5 mm in from margin; leaves pinnately veined or palmately 3–5-veined
                       Back to 40
42Young shoots and usually young leaves densely covered with hairs and/or scales, hairs simple or stellate43
Leaves and shoots glabrous or almost so, hairs if present simple, stellate hairs and scales absent
                       Back to 41
43Leaves 3–5-veined from base; scales absent; at least young shoots and leaves hairy, hairs simple or stellate but not woolly44
Leaves not 3–5-veined from base; scales present, at least on young shoots, or hairs stellate and plant woolly
                       Back to 42
44Lower surface of leaves with scattered, coloured surface glands, usually 3-veined from base; petals absent; leaves not lobedMallotus
Lower surface of leaves without coloured surface glands, mostly 5-veined from base; petals conspicuous, more than 8 mm long; leaves often lobed
                       Back to 43
45Hairs stellate; ovary 1- or 2-locular; fruit 1- or 2-seededAleurites
Hairs simple; ovary 3–5-locular; fruit 1–5-seeded
                       Back to 44
46Leaves more or less triangular, petiole about as long as the lamina; petioles and stems often reddishHomalanthus
Leaves not triangular, petiole less than half as long as the lamina; petioles and stems not reddish
                       Back to 42
47Milky latex present; buds without scale leaves; 2 glands present at junction of petiole and laminaExcoecaria
Milky latex absent; buds covered with scale leaves; glands absent from petiole and lamina (see Phyllanthaceae)
                       Back to 46
48Leaves with 12–15 pairs of secondary veins (see Phyllanthaceae)Bridelia
Leaves with less than 12 pairs of secondary veins
                       Back to 40
49Young shoots and leaves densely covered with either scales or stellate hairsCroton
Young shoots and leaves glabrous or with simple hairs
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50Leaves distinctly 2-ranked and mostly pseudopinnate in arrangement51
Leaves not distinctly 2-ranked, never pseudopinnate in arrangement
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51Lamina less than 30 mm long, glabrous, glaucous below, drying black above; fruit less than 5 mm diam. (see Phyllanthaceae)Breynia
Lamina more than 40 mm long, glabrous or finely pubescent, not glaucous below, not drying black; fruit more than 8 mm diam. (see Phyllanthaceae)
                       Back to 50
52Leaves glabrous and green on both surfaces, stiff, margin often obscurely crenate; fruit a drupe (see Putranjivaceae)Drypetes
Leaves glabrous and green above on fresh material, sometimes brownish to blackish above when dry, hairy and grey to fawnish below, firm but not stiff, margin entire or almost so; fruit a capsule
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53Leaves grey-green below, sparsely covered with pale-coloured hairs below; green above when dried; capsule 3-lobed, flattened-globose, 5–12 mm diam., green to reddish (see Phyllanthaceae)Cleistanthus
Leaves fawnish grey below, densely covered with fawnish hairs, sometimes more or less glabrescent with age; capsule multilobed, more or less globose, 10–18 mm diam., usually orangey or orange-brown (see Picrodendraceae)
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