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Family Sapindaceae

Synonyms: Dodonaeaceae APNI*
Aceraceae APNI*

Description: Trees, shrubs and climbers, rarely herbaceous; dioecious, monoecious or sometimes polygamous, sometimes deciduous.

Leaves alternate, simple, biternate or pinnate with the rachis ending in a spur; sometimes dimorphic with juvenile leaves simple to 2-pinnate, or leaflets toothed; petiole and petiolules usually pulvinate; stipules absent.

Inflorescences terminal, axillary or ramiflorous, usually thyrsoid, racemose or paniculate or cymose, sometimes corymbose, umbel-like. Flowers small, mostly actinomorphic, unisexual or bisexual; usually pedicellate; bracts present. Sepals 4–10, usually fused, imbricate or valvate. Petals absent or 4–6, free, usually clawed, with 1 or 2 hairy scales inside towards base; scales crested or not, sometimes absent. Disc usually present. Stamens 5–74, usually 8, inserted within disc, free, reduced in females, sometimes sepaloid; anthers 2-locular, longitudinally dehiscent. Ovary superior, 1–8-locular, rudimentary in males, ovules 1 or 2 per loculus; style 1, entire or with 2- or 3-lobed stigma.

Fruit drupaceous or separating into cocci or more often capsular and then dehiscence loculicidal, septicidal or irregular or sometimes by valves breaking away from septa, sometimes a winged schizocarp, separating into two 1-seeded mericarps (samaras); seeds usually with an aril.


Distribution and occurrence: World: 150 gen., c. 2000 spp., chiefly trop. & subtrop. regions. Aust.: 30 gen., c. 190 spp. (c. 167 spp. endemic, 2 spp. naturalized), all States.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Sapindaceae, Order: Sapindales)

Many species are of economic value. Several contain saponin in bark, twigs, leaves and pericarp; the bark of Jagera pseudorhus contains large amounts and is used as a foaming agent and as a fish poison. Some yield valuable timber, the most widely used is Tulipwood (Harpullia pendula). Many produce edible fruit; the Lychee (Litchi chinensis Sonn.), in which the aril is eaten, is cultivated in tropical areas. The aril of the Native Tamarind (Diploglottis australis) and of other species of Diploglottis is used for making jams and drinks. Many species are cultivated for their showy fruit or reddish new growth, or grown as shade trees.

Aceraceae is here included in Sapindaceae

Text by G.J. Harden
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key

 Key to the genera 
1Leaves either simple, biternate or 2-pinnate2
Leaves pinnate with 2 or more leaflets6
2Leaves biternate; plants climbing by tendrilsCardiospermum
Leaves either simple or 2-pinnate; plants not climbing
                       Back to 1
3Leaves simple4
Leaves 2-pinnate. (Juvenile foliage)
                       Back to 2
4Fruit a capsule with 2–6 wings or anglesDodonaea
Fruit indehiscent, usually 2-lobed
                       Back to 3
5Leaves linear, entire; petiole more than 5 mm longAtalaya
Leaves oblanceolate or cuneate, some sharply toothed, others entire; petiole less than 5 mm long
                       Back to 4
6Leaves usually imparipinnate; leaflets usually less than 15 mm long and less than 8 mm wide, rarely to 40 mm long; fruit 2–6-angled and usually prominently 2–4-winged, wings paperyDodonaea
Leaves usually paripinnate; leaflets mostly more than 30 mm long and more than 8 mm wide; fruit either not as above or if winged then wings leathery or more or less woody
                       Back to 1
7Fruit either separating into samaras, or indehiscent and drupaceous, or a capsule and dehiscing irregularly8
Fruit a capsule, loculicidally dehiscent
                       Back to 6
8Fruit separating into samaras9
Fruit not separating into samaras
                       Back to 7
                       Back to 8
10Fruit drupaceous, indehiscent, more than 15 mm long; seeds without an aril; leaflets mostly with numerous prominent domatiaCastanospora
Fruit not drupaceous, 1–3-lobed or furrowed and splitting irregularly, less than 15 mm long; seeds with a basal aril; domatia either absent or small or if conspicuous only 1–3 per leaflet
                       Back to 8
11Leaflets with toothed margins12
Leaflets with entire margins
                       Back to 7
12Petiole and rachis wingedHarpullia
Petiole and rachis not winged
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13Capsule bristly with irritant hairs; leaves and branchlets densely rusty-hairy; domatia absentJagera
Capsule not bristly, softly hairy or glabrous; leaves and branchlets either glabrous or sparsely hairy or if densely hairy then domatia present
                       Back to 12
14Leaflets soft, thin and irregularly toothed in upper half; secondary veins distinct but not prominently raised on lower surfaceLepiderema
Leaflets firm and leathery and usually regularly toothed to base; secondary veins prominent and raised on lower surface
                       Back to 13
15Leaves usually with 8 or more leaflets; capsules with more or less thickened, leathery valves, usually either wrinkled or hairy on the outside; aril cupular, covering seed to about halfwayCupaniopsis
Leaves usually with 2–7 leaflets; fruit with thick woody valves, either wrinkled or hairy on outside; aril very small, basal
                       Back to 14
16Fruit on a long stipe, obovoid to pyriform, not prominently lobed, 1-seeded; aril completely enclosing seed and with a basal spurMischocarpus
Fruit without a stipe, globose to obovoid and usually 2- or 3-seeded or divaricately 1–3-lobed and each lobe with 1 seed; aril either partly enclosing seed or without a spur
                       Back to 11
17Leaves with 2 leaflets18
Most leaves with more than 2 leaflets, occasionally some leaves with only 2 leaflets
                       Back to 16
18Leaves without domatia; petiole flattened; fruit more or less globose, usually 3-seeded, aril basal, yellowishRhysotoechia
Leaves with 1–several prominent domatia; petiole not flattened; fruit divaricately lobed, seed solitary in fruit or in each divaricate lobe, aril more or less enclosing seed, red
                       Back to 17
19Domatia absent20
Domatia present
                       Back to 17
20Indumentum on new growth of stellate hairs; ovary 2-locular, laterally compressedHarpullia
Indumentum if present of simple hairs; ovary 3-locular, rarely laterally compressed
                       Back to 19
21Lower surface of leaflets glaucous and finely hairy; arils tailedGuioa
Lower surface of leaflets not glaucous, either glabrous or hairy; arils not tailed
                       Back to 20
22Apex of leaflets rounded and often retuse or shortly acute; leaflets more or less oblong to obovoid23
Apex of leaflets acuminate; leaflets mostly elliptic, narrow-ovate to ovate
                       Back to 21
23Leaves glabrous, usually less than 25 cm longCupaniopsis
Leaves rusty-hairy, usually more than 30 cm long
                       Back to 22
24Leaves with petiole, rachis and at least lower surface of leaflets softly hairy; widespread in rainforest north from the Bulga PlateauSarcopteryx
Leaves usually glabrous when mature (sometimes petioles sparsely hairy); rare, in rainforest in the Richmond and Tweed Valleys
                       Back to 22
25Most leaflets more than 6 cm long and more than 20 mm wide; scales present on petals; fruit more than 20 mm diamDiploglottis
Most leaflets less than 6 cm long and less than 20 mm wide; scales absent from petals; fruit less than 20 mm diam
                       Back to 24
26Fruit more or less globose to obovoid; arils yellowish, only enclosing base of seeds; leaflets either with 1–3 prominent domatia or with several small hairy domatiaToechima
Fruit divaricately 1–3-lobed, each lobe transversely ellipsoid; arils red, completelty enclosing seeds; leaflets with several small glabrous domatia
                       Back to 19

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