Ternstroemia gymnanthera, from Harvard University Herbaria.

Belongs within: Ericales.

The Theaceae are a relatively small group of shrubs and trees, a number of which are known for producing showy flowers. The most significant member of the family economically is Thea sinensis, the leaves of which are used to make tea. Members of the closely related genus Camellia are widely grown as ornamentals.

Characters (from Min & Bartholomew): Shrubs or trees, evergreen or rarely deciduous, usually bisexual, rarely androdioecious (Ternstroemia). Stipules absent. Leaves simple, alternate, petiolate or rarely sessile; leaf blade secondary veins pinnate, margin usually serrate or rarely entire. Flowers axillary or subterminal, solitary or sometimes to 3(-10 or more) in a cluster or raceme, pedicellate or subsessile. Bracteoles 2-8 or rarely more, persistent or caducous, sometimes undifferentiated from sepals. Sepals 5(or 6) or rarely more, persistent. Corolla white, red, or yellow; petals 5 or rarely more, basally connate or rarely distinct, adnate to androecium. Stamens numerous, in 1-6 whorls; outer filaments basally more or less connate; anthers dorsifixed or basifixed, 2-loculed, laterally and longitudinally dehiscent. Gynoecium 3-5-carpellate. Carpels connate or rarely incompletely connate to nearly distinct. Ovary superior, rarely half inferior, 3-5-loculed, placentation axile or rarely nearly basal; ovules 2-5(to ca. 100) or more per locule; styles distinct to basally connate, rarely completely united. Fruit a loculicidal capsule or indehiscent and drupaceous or baccate, with 1 to many seeds per locule; pericarp woody, leathery, or fleshy; columella persistent or more or less degenerating. Seeds globose, semiglobose, compressed oblong, ovoid, or reniform, winged or wingless; testa bony, leathery, or sometimes with a fleshy red outer layer or sarcotesta, smooth or honeycombed; hilum umbilicate or linear; endosperm present or absent; embryo large or small; cotyledons fleshy or thin.

    |--Ternstroemia JD05 [Ternstroemioideae T00]
    |    |--T. barkeri J87
    |    |--T. bartonensis JD05
    |    |--T. gracilifolia J87
    |    |--T. gymnanthera LO98
    |    |--T. japonica JK80
    |    `--T. polypetala DL94
    `--Theoideae [Camellieae, Camellioideae] T00
         |--Thea sinensis MH98 [incl. T. bohea C55, T. viridis C55]
         `--Camellia JK80
              |--C. × hiemalis MH98
              |--C. japonica JK80
              |--C. sasanquea JK80
              |--C. sinensis P88
              `--C. theifera SDK05

Theaceae incertae sedis:
  Schima P88
    |--S. brevifolia P88
    |--S. mertensiana A80
    `--S. wallichii P88
  Stewartia pseudocamellia JK80 [incl. Stuartia monadelpha LO98]
  Gordonia JK80
    |--G. axillaris MH98
    `--G. excelsa JK80
  Cleyera JK80
    |--C. japonica JK80
    |--C. ternstroemioides J87
    `--C. vaccinioides J87
  Laplacea alpestris J87
  Polyspora Sweet ex Don 1831 KC01
    `--P. saxonica [=Gordonia saxonica] JD05
  Schimoxylon dachelense (Kräusel) Kramer 1974 [=S. dachalense] CBH93
  ‘Tricolporopollenites’ srivastavai Gruas-Cavagnetto 1978 CBH93
  Pyrenaria serrata N77

*Type species of generic name indicated


[A80] Aoki, J. 1980. A revision of the oribatid mites of Japan. I. The families Phthiracaridae and Oribotritiidae. Bulletin of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Yokohama National University 6 (2): 1–89.

[C55] Candolle, A. de. 1855. Géographie Botanique Raisonée: Ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle vol. 2. Librairie de Victor Masson: Paris.

[CBH93] Collinson, M. E., M. C. Boulter & P. L. Holmes. 1993. Magnoliophyta (‘Angiospermae’). In: Benton, M. J. (ed.) The Fossil Record 2 pp. 809–841. Chapman & Hall: London.

[DL94] Dinesen, L., T. Lehmberg, J. O. Svendsen, L. A. Hansen & J. Fjeldså. 1994. A new genus and species of perdicine bird (Phasianidae, Perdicini) from Tanzania, a relict form with Indo-Malayan affinities. Ibis 136: 2–11.

[JK80] John, J., & K.-P. Kolbe. 1980. The systematic position of the “Theales” from the viewpoint of serology. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 8: 241–248.

[J87] Judd, W. S. 1987. Floristic study of Morne La Visite and Pic Macaya National Parks, Haiti. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum—Biological Sciences 32 (1): 1–136.

[JD05] Junge, F. W., M. Dolezych, H. Walther, T. Böttger, A. Kühl, L. Kunzmann, P. Morgenstern, T. Steinberg & R. Stange. 2005. Ein Fenster in Landschaft und Vegetation vor 37 Millionen Jahren: Lithologische, sedimentgeochemische und paläobotanische Befunde aus einem Paläoflusssystem des Weißelsterbeckens. Mauritiana 19 (2): 185–273.

[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).

[LO98] Lack, H. W., & H. Ohba. 1998. Die Xylothek des Chikusai Kato. Willdenowia 28: 263–276.

[MH98] Morikawa, H., A. Higaki, M. Nohno, M. Takahashi, M. Kamada, M. Nakata, G. Toyohara, Y. Okamura, K. Matsui, S. Kitani, K. Fujita, K. Irifune & N. Goshima. 1998. More than a 600-fold variation in nitrogen dioxide assimilation among 217 plant taxa. Plant, Cell and Environment 21: 180–190.

[N77] Nooteboom, H. P. 1977. Symplocaceae. Flora Malesiana, Series I—Spermatophyta, Flowering Plants 8 (2): 205–274.

[P88] Polunin, I. 1988. Plants and Flowers of Malaysia. Times Editions: Singapore.

[SDK05] Sharma, L. K., N. K. Dadhich & A. Kumar. 2005. Plant based veterinary medicine from traditional knowledge of India. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 47: 43–52.

[T00] Thorne, R. F. 2000. The classification and geography of the flowering plants: dicotyledons of the class Angiospermae (subclasses Magnoliidae, Ranunculidae, Caryophyllidae, Dilleniidae, Rosidae, Asteridae, and Lamiidae). The Botanical Review 66: 441–647.

Last updated: 25 April 2020.

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