Tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima, photographed by Russ Kleinman.

Belongs within: Sapindales.

The Simaroubaceae are a family of mostly tropical or subtropical trees and shrubs. Well-known members include the tree of heaven Ailanthus altissima, historically grown as an ornamental but now widely regarded as an invasive weed outside its range in temperate east Asia. The bitterwood Quassia amara produces bitter compounds in its bark and wood that are used for medicinal purposes and as a flavouring for drinks.

Characters (from Peng & Thomas): Trees or shrubs usually with bitter bark. Leaves alternate, sometimes opposite, pinnate to unifoliolate or rarely simple; stipules present or absent. Inflorescences axillary, racemose, paniculate, cymose, rarely spicate. Flowers generally small, bisexual or unisexual (occasionally andromonoecious, functionally dioecious, or distinctly dioecious), often with rudiments of opposite sex, actinomorphic. Calyx of 4 or 5(-8) sepals, imbricate or valvate. Petals usually 4 or 5(-8), free, imbricate or valvate. Stamens same number as petals and alternate with them, or twice as many as petals (or more); filaments free, base often with an appendage; anthers oblong, versatile, bicelled, with a longitudinal slit. Disk usually present, sometimes a gynophore or androgynophore. Gynoecium weakly united at base, or virtually free, usually 2-5-carpellate; ovary superior, with axile placentation; ovules 1 or 2 per locule, apical or basal; style connate or free; stigmas 2-5. Fruit a "drupe" or "samara," actually 1-5 fruitlike monocarps produced per flower, each a druparium or a samarium; endosperm present or absent; embryo straight or curved, with thick cotyledons.

    |--+--Soulamea soulameoides MS06
    |  `--+--Quassia MS06
    |     |    |--Q. amara MS06
    |     |    `--Q. borneensis H03
    |     `--Simarouba MS06
    |          |--S. amara SWK87
    |          `--S. glauca MS06
    `--Ailanthus MS06
         |--A. altissima MS06
         |--A. confucii MS06
         |--A. eureka Brown 1956 B56
         |--A. excelsa SK02
         |--A. glandulosa RS99
         |--A. lesquereuxi B56
         |--A. malabaricus M94
         `--A. triphysa LK14

Simaroubaceae incertae sedis:
  Picrasma H03
    |--P. quassioides [incl. P. ailanthoides] LO98
    `--P. selleana J87
  Brucea javanica LK14
  Pongelion YY22
  Castela Turp. 1806 (nom. cons.) [Castelinae] MF68
    |--C. sect. Castela [incl. Castelaria Small 1911, Neocastela Small 1911] MF68
    |    |--*C. depressa MF68
    |    |--C. calcicola MF68
    |    |--C. coccinea MF68
    |    |--C. erecta MF68
    |    |--C. jacquinifolia MF68
    |    |--C. peninsularis MF68
    |    |--C. spinosa MF68
    |    |--C. tortuosa MF68
    |    `--C. tweedii MF68
    |--C. sect. Eremacantha Moran & Felger 1968 MF68
    |    `--C. (sect. *E.) polyandra Moran & Felger 1968 MF68
    `--C. sect. Holacantha (Gray) Moran & Felger 1968 [=Holacantha Gray 1854] MF68
         |--C. emoryi (Gray) Moran & Felger 1968 [=*Holacantha emoryi Gray 1854] MF68
         `--C. stewartii (Muller) Moran & Felger 1968 [=Holacantha stewartii Muller 1941] MF68
  Castelaria YY22
  Marupa YY22
  Picrolemma YY22
  Eurycoma longifolia YY22, K03
  Hannoa YY22
  Amaroria YY22
  Hebonga YY22
  Picrocardia YY22
  Perriera YY22
  Ailanthoxylon indicum Prakash 1959 CBH93
  Simaba ferruginea BV09
  Kirkia Oliv. 1868 [Kirkiaceae] KC01
    `--K. dewinteri CV06
  Chaneya CD02
  Raskya CD02

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B56] Brown, R. W. 1956. New items in Cretaceous and Tertiary floras of the western United States. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 46 (4): 104–108.

[CD02] Clifford, H. T., & M. E. Dettmann. 2002. A winged fruit from the Tertiary of Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 48: 79–83.

[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.

[CV06] Craven, P., & P. Vorster. 2006. Patterns of plant diversity and endemism in Namibia. Bothalia 36 (2): 175–189.

[H03] Heads, M. 2003. Ericaceae in Malesia: vicariance biogeography, terrane tectonics and ecology. Telopea 10 (1): 311–449.

[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.

[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).

[K03] Kulip, J. 2003. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal and other useful plants of Muruts in Sabah, Malaysia. Telopea 10 (1): 81–98.

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

[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.

[M94] May, B. M. 1994. An introduction to the immature stages of Australian Curculionoidea. In: Zimmerman, E. C. Australian Weevils (Coleoptera: Curculionoidea) vol. 2. Brentidae, Eurhynchidae, Apionidae and a chapter on immature stages by Brenda May pp. 365–728. CSIRO Australia.

[MF68] Moran, R., & R. Felger. 1968. Castela polyandra, a new species in a new section; union of Holacantha with Castela (Simaroubaceae). Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 15 (4): 31–40.

[MS06] Muellner, A. N., V. Savolainen, R. Samuel & M. W. Chase. 2006. The mahogany family "out-of-Africa": divergence time estimation, global biogeographic patterns inferred from plastid rbcL DNA sequences, extant, and fossil distribution of diversity. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40 (1): 236–250.

[RS99] Rossman, A. Y., G. J. Samuels, C. T. Rogerson & R. Lowen. 1999. Genera of Bionectriaceae, Hypocreaceae and Nectriaceae (Hypocreales, Ascomycetes). Studies in Mycology 42: 1–248.

[SWK87] Snyder, N. F. R., J. W. Wiley & C. B. Kepler. 1987. The Parrots of Luquillo: Natural history and conservation of the Puerto Rican parrot. Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology: Los Angeles.

[SK02] Sumithramma, N., A. R. V. Kumar, K. Chandrashekara & D. Rajagopal. 2002. Plant selection for nesting by Oecophylla smaragdina, Hymenoptera: Formicidae: do physical features affect the choice of the plant? Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 99 (3): 408–412.

[YY22] Yampolsky, C., & H. Yampolsky. 1922. Distribution of sex forms in the phanerogamic flora. Bibliotheca Genetica 3: 1–62.

Last updated: 8 August 2021.

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