Tree violet Hymenanthera dentata, copyright Elizabeth Donoghue.

Belongs within: Violineae.
Contains: Viola.

The Violaceae are a family of flowering plants including the violets (Viola) and related species. Though the herbaceous genus Viola contains the majority of species, species in other genera of Violaceae are shrubs. Members of the Australasian genus Hymenanthera often have spinescent branchlets and their fruit is a berry.

See also: Taxon of this Week: not all violets are violet.

Characters (from Harden 1990): Herbs and shrubs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules usually present. Inflorescence a raceme or cyme or flowers solitary. Flowers zygomorphic, usually strongly so, mostly bisexual. Sepals 5, imbricate, persistent. Petals 5, imbricate, free, the lowest often largest and spurred. Stamens 5, hypogynous, alternate with petals; filaments very short; anthers free or fused around ovary, the connective usually produced into an appendage. Ovary superior, 1-locular, usually with 3 parietal placentas; style simple, stigma terminal. Fruit a capsule or berry; seeds 2-many.

<==Violaceae [Violarieae]
    |--Fusispermum [Fusispermoideae] XR12
    `--+--Rinorea XR12
       `--+--+--Leonia [Leonioideae] XR12
          |  |    `--L. glycycarpa WM09
          |  `--Hybanthus XR12
          |       |--H. aurantiacus LK14
          |       |--H. concolor BS00
          |       |--H. debilissimus GK00
          |       |--H. enneaspermus LK14
          |       |    |--H. e. ssp. enneaspermus H90
          |       |    `--H. e. ssp. stellarioides H90
          |       |--H. floribundus GK00
          |       |--H. monopetalus H90
          |       `--H. vernonii H87
          |            |--H. v. ssp. vernonii H90
          |            `--H. v. ssp. scaber H90
          `--+--Viola XR12
             `--Hymenanthera Br. 1818 XR12, A61
                  |--H. alpina (Kirk) Oliver 1944 A61 [=H. dentata var. alpina Kirk 1899 A61, Melicytus alpinus D95]
                  |--H. angustifolia Br. ex DC. 1824 [=H. dentata var. angustifolia (Br.) Benth. 1863] A61
                  |--H. banksii B08
                  |--H. chathamica (Muell.) Kirk 1896 [=H. latifolia var. chathamica Muell. 1864] A61
                  |--H. crassifolia Hook. f. 1852 A61
                  |--H. dentata A61
                  |--H. lanceolatus ME70
                  |    |--H. l. var. lanceolatus ME70
                  |    `--H. l. var. latior ME70
                  |--H. latifolia C06
                  |--H. novae-zelandiae (Cunn.) Hemsl. 1908 (see below for synonymy) A61
                  `--H. obovata Kirk 1895 A61

Violaceae incertae sedis:
  Melicytus Forster & Forster 1776 A61
    |--M. flexuosus D95
    |--M. lanceolatus Hook. f. 1776 A61
    |    |--M. l. var. lanceolatus A61
    |    `--M. l. var. latior Simpson & Thomson 1942 A61
    |--M. latifolius D95
    |--M. macrophyllus Cunn. 1840 A61
    |--M. micranthus Hook. f. 1852 [=Elaeodendron micranthum Hook. f. 1844] A61
    |    |--H. m. var. micranthus A61
    |    |--H. m. var. longiusculus Cheesem. 1906 A61
    |    `--H. m. var. microphyllus (Col.) Cheesem. 1906 [=M. microphyllus Col. 1887] A61
    |--M. novae-zelandiae LM98
    `--M. ramiflorus Forster & Forster 1776 A61
  Anchietea salutaris PB03
  Noisettia orchidiflora BS00
  Ionidium filiforme C06
  Clelandia Black 1932 KC01
  Medusula Pers. 1807 KC01

Nomen nudum: Melicytus collina Colenso 1845 C45

Hymenanthera novae-zelandiae (Cunn.) Hemsl. 1908 [=Scaevola novae-zelandiae Cunn. 1839; incl. H. latifolia var. tasmanica Kirk 1871] A61

*Type species of generic name indicated


[A61] Allan, H. H. 1961. Flora of New Zealand vol. 1. Indigenous Tracheophyta: Psilopsida, Lycopsida, Filicopsida, Gymnospermae, Dicotyledones. R. E. Owen, Government Printer: Wellington (New Zealand).

[BS00] Ballard, H. E., Jr & K. J. Systsma. 2000. Evolution and biogeography of the woody Hawaiian violets (Viola, Violaceae): Arctic origins, herbaceous ancestry and bird dispersal. Evolution 54 (5): 1521–1532.

[B08] Brittlebank, C. C. 1908. The life-history of Loranthus exocarpi Behr. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 33: 650–656, pls 15–20.

[C06] Cheeseman, T. F. 1906. Manual of the New Zealand Flora. John Mackay, Government Printer: Wellington.

[C45] Colenso, W. 1845. Memoranda of an excursion, made in the Northern Island of New Zealand, in the summer of 1841–2; intended as a contribution towards the natural productions of the New Zealand groupe: with particular reference to their botany (concluded). Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science 2: 241–308.

[D95] Dawson, M. I. 1995. Contributions to a chromosome atlas of the New Zealand flora. 33. Miscellaneous species. New Zealand Journal of Botany 33: 477–487.

[GK00] Gibson, N., & G. J. Keighery. 2000. Flora and vegetation of the Byenup-Muir reserve system, south-west Western Australia. CALMScience 3 (3): 323–402.

[H90] Harden, G. J. (ed.) 1990. Flora of New South Wales vol. 1. New South Wales University Press.

[H87] Haviland, E. 1887. Flowering seasons of Australian plants. No. I—List of plants indigenous in the neighbourhood of Sydney, flowering during July. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, series 2, 1 (4): 1049–1051.

[KC01] Kirk, P. M., P. F. Cannon, J. C. David & J. A. Stalpers. 2001. Ainsworth & Bisby's Dictionary of the Fungi 9th ed. CAB International: Wallingford (UK).

[LM98] Lange, P. J. de, & B. G. Murray. 1998. Senecio repangae (Asteraceae): a new endemic species from the north-eastern North Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 36: 509–519.

[LK14] Lyons, M. N., G. J. Keighery, L. A. Gibson & T. Handasyde. 2014. Flora and vegetation communities of selected islands off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 81: 205–244.

[ME70] Moore, L. B., & E. Edgar. 1970. Flora of New Zealand vol. 2. Indigenous Tracheophyta: Monocotyledones except Gramineae. A. R. Shearer, Government Printer: Wellington (New Zealand).

[PB03] Poinar, G. O., Jr & A. E. Brown. 2003. A non-gilled hymenomycete in Cretaceous amber. Mycological Research 107 (6): 763–768.

[WM09] Wang, H., M. J. Moore, P. S. Soltis, C. D. Bell, S. F. Brockington, R. Alexandre, C. C. Davis, M. Latvis, S. R. Manchester & D. E. Soltis. 2009. Rosid radiation and the rapid rise of angiosperm-dominated forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106 (10): 3853–3858.

[XR12] Xi, Z., B. R. Ruhfel, H. Schaefer, A. M. Amorim, M. Sugumaran, K. J. Wurdack, P. K. Endress, M. L. Matthews, P. F. Stevens, S. Mathews & C. C. Davis. 2012. Phylogenomics and a posteriori data partitioning resolve the Cretaceous angiosperm radiation Malpighiales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 109 (43): 17519–17524.

Last updated: 16 May 2021.


  1. Are Hawaiian Isodendrion outside of violaceae?

  2. It appears that Isodendrion is a member of the Violaceae. The listing in this post isn't (as yet) complete, not by a long margin.


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