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  • Erythroxylaceae Kunth

This family is accepted.


Loiola, M.I.B. (2009). Neotropical Erythroxylaceae.


Glabrous shrubs or small trees. Branchlets erect to spreading, distichous or not, consisting of both long and short shoots. Stipules present, intra-petiolar, striate -nerved or non- striate , often 2 or 3-setulose at apex , persistent or caducous ; cataphylls distichous , produced at base of new twigs, in form similar to foliar stipules.  Leaves simple , entire , alternate , petiolate or short- petiolate , pinnately veined.  Inflorescences fasciculate at nodes, sometimes short-pedunculate, with 1-many flowers. Flowers pedicellate, rarely short-pedicellate, small, actinomorphic , bisexual or unisexual, often heterostylous, in axils of leaves or cataphylls, subtended by small scarious bracteoles; calyx lobes 5, persistent , valvate , sepals united below; petals 5, free , alternate with sepals, imbricate in bud , caducous , usually appendaged on the adaxial surface with a 2- lobed ligule ; stamens 10 in 2 whorls of 5, the outermost alternate with the petals, the filaments united at the base and usually forming a short tube surrounding the ovary , persistent , anthers 2-locular, longitudinally dehiscent ; ovary superior , 3-locular, usually with only one locule ovuliferous; ovule solitary, axillary , pendulous, anatropos, epitropous, styles 3, free or partly connate at base, stigmas capitate . Fruits small, drupaceous and one-seeded. Seeds with straight embryo, with or without endosperm .

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Erythroxylum P.Browne - Mexico, Mesoamerica, Caribbean, South America.
Key differences from similar families
  • Stamens 10, biseriate (5 and uniseriate in Linaceae).
Notable genera and distinguishing features


  • Leaves alternate.
  • Bracteoles present. 
  • Flowers fasciculate.
  • Petals 5.
  • Stamens 10, united at base by the filaments and usually forming a short tube.
  • Ovary 3-locule.
  • Ovule 1 per ovary.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Stipules intra-petiolar.
  • Stamens united at the base by filaments and usually forming a short tube.
Other important characters
  • Petals usually appendaged on the adaxial surface.
  • Calyxpersistent in fruit.
General Description
Number of genera

One genus: Erythroxylum with 187 species native to the Neotropics.

  • Erythroxylum (Native, cultivated).
General notes
  • Some native species of Erythroxylum, referred to in the literature as having pharmacological potential because they contain alkaloids, flavonoids and terpenoids, are widely used in medicine.  Among these is E. coca Lam., from which the cocaine alkaloid is extracted.  It has been used since 1879 as a local anaesthetic and for terminally ill patients (Brompton cocktail), but mainly illegally as a recreational drug sold in major urban centers to a considerable addict population.  This species has long been used as a ritualistic psychoactive medicinal plant by a host of South American tribes.
  • In Brazil, Erythroxylum vacciniifolium Mart., popularly known as "catuaba", is used to stimulate the central nervous system in addition to exhibiting aphrodisiac properties.
  • E. pelleterianum A. St.-Hil. is used to treat stomach pains.
  • E. myrsinites Mart. and E. suberosum A. St.-Hil. are used in the tanning industry.
Notes on delimitation
  • Recent molecular studies, supported by various morphological and anatomic characters, have shown affinity between Erythroxylaceae and Rhizophoraceae, and suggest that they belong to the order Malpighiales, sensu APG I (1998).
  • In the classification proposed by the APG II (2003), the large affinity and the set of characters shared by both families led Erythroxylaceae and Rhizophoraceae to be considered, optionally, as a single family.
  • The main characters shared by the two families are: alkaloids from the tropane and pyrrolidine groups, the presence of colleters, terminal buds protected by stipules and green embryos.
Important literature

El-Imam, Y. M. A., Evans, W. C. & Plowman, T. 1985. Alkaloids of some south american Erythroxylum species. Phytochemistry 24 (10): 2285-2289.

Exell, A. W. & Mendonça, F. A. 1950. Nectaropetalaceae, fam. nov. Bol. Soc. Brot. 24: 105.

Gentner, W.A. 1972. The genus Erythroxylum in Colombia. Cespedesia 1(4): 481-554.

Loiola, M. I. B. 2004. Flora de Grão Mogol, Minas Gerais: Erythroxylaceae. Boletim de Botânica da Universidade São Paulo 22(2): 101-108.

Loiola, M. I. B.; Agra, M. F.; Baracho, G. S. & Queiroz, R. T. 2007. Flora da Paraíba, Brasil: Erythroxylaceae. Acta Bot. Bras. 21(2): 473-487.

Plowman, T. 1984. New taxa of Erythroxylum (Erythroxylaceae) from the Amazon Basin. Supl. Acta Amazonica 14 (1/2): 117-143.

Plowman, T. 1987. Ten new species of Erythroxylum (Erythroxylaceae) from Bahia, Brazil. Fieldiana, Botany 19: 1-41.

Plowman, T. C. 1989. Ertythroxylaceae. In: G. Harling & L. Anderson (eds.), Flora of Ecuador 36: 1-32.

Plowman, T. C. & Berry, P. E. 1999. Flora of Venezuela Guayana 5: 59-71.

Plowman, T. C. & Hensold, N. 2004. Names, types and distribution of neotropical species of Erythroxylum (Erythroxylaceae). Brittonia 56(1): 1-53.

Schulz, O. E. 1907. Erythroxylaceae. In: A. Engler (Ed.). Das Pflanzenreich. 4(134): 1-164.


Erythroxylaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:2. 1958

Trees, shrubs, or undershrubs
Leaves alternate, rarely opposite, simple, entire; stipules intrapetiolar, rarely extrapetiolar, often caducous
Flowers fasciculate, hermaphrodite, rarely subdioecious, hypogynous, actinomorphic
Calyx persistent, campanulate, lobes 5, imbricate
Petals 5, free, deciduous, imbricate, mostly ligulate on the inside
Stamens 10, in 2 series, more or less connate at the base; anthers ellipsoid, 2-celled, opening lengthwise
Ovary of 3 carpels, 3-celled, mostly two of the cells sterile, fertile cells 1–2-ovuled; ovules pendulous; styles 3, free or more or less connate; stigmas oblique, depressed-capitate or clavate
Fruit drupaceous; seeds with or without endosperm; embryo straight


Erythroxylaceae, N. K. B. Robson. Flora Zambesiaca 2:1. 1963

Trees, shrubs or shrublets, glabrous
Leaves alternate (or rarely opposite), simple, entire, penninerved, with stipules ± united and intrapetiolar (or rarely interpetiolar)
Flowers axillary, solitary or in fascicles (rarely pedunculate), actinomorphic, bisexual or rarely subdioecious, heterostylic
Sepals (4) 5, valvate, ± united
Petals (4) 5, contorted in bud, free, unguiculate, caducous, usually with a ventral ligule-like nectariferous appendage
Stamens 5 + 5, all fertile, with filaments united at the base to form a deep urceole or shallow rarely glandiferous cup; anthers basifixed, dehiscing longitudinally
Ovary superior, 2–3 (4)-locular, with each loculus 1-ovulate (or rarely 2-ovulate); ovules pendulous; styles 2–3 (4), free or ± united, with stigmas clavate to obliquely capitate or depressed-capitate rarely acute
Fruit a 1-seeded fleshy drupe (or rarely a 3 (4)-locular 3 (4)-seeded capsule dehiscing longitudinally)
Seeds not compressed, exarillate, without or with scanty endosperm; embryo straight, with flat or semiconvex cotyledons


Erythroxylaceae, B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1984

Trees, shrubs or subshrubs, glabrous
Leaves alternate or rarely opposite, simple, entire, pinnately nerved; stipules ± united, intrapetiolar or rarely interpetiolar
Flowers axillary, solitary, in fascicles or rarely in pedunculate inflorescences, regular, hermaphrodite or unisexual, heterostylous
Sepals (4–)5, valvate, ± united
Petals (4–)5, with contorted aestivation, free, clawed, soon falling, usually with a ligulate nectariferous appendage inside
Stamens 10, all fertile, the filaments united at the base to form a shallow or urn-shaped cup, sometimes glandular; anthers basifixed, dehiscing longitudinally
Ovary superior, 2–3(–4)-locular, the locules with 1 or rarely 2 pendulous ovules; styles 2–3(–4), free or ± united, with club-shaped, capitate or rarely acute stigmas
Fruit a 1-seeded fleshy drupe or rarely a 3(–4)-locular, 3(–4)-seeded capsule dehiscing longitudinally
Seeds with no aril and no or very little endosperm; embryo straight with flat or semiconvex cotyledons

Erythroxylaceae Kunth appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Nov. Gen. Sp. [H.B.K.] 5(21): 135 (ed. fol.); 175 (ed. qto.). 1822 [25 Feb 1822] (as "Erythroxyleae") (1822)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.