Araliaceae Juss.

First published in Gen. Pl. [Jussieu] 217. 1789 [4 Aug 1789] (1789)nom. cons.
This family is accepted


Fiaschi, P. & Plunkett, G. (2009). Neotropical Araliaceae.


Small shrubs to large trees, less commonly lianas or herbs, glabrous or pubescent . Plants terrestrial, hemi- epiphytic , or climbing. Leaves alternate , frequently heteroblastic; petioles often sheathing at the base, sometimes alate, exstipulate , or with ligulate stipules; blade simple to ternately, palmately or pinnately lobed or compound (or peltate ), with entire , crenate , toothed, or incised margins; venation pinnate or palmate . Inflorescences terminal (rarely axillary ), paniculate, compound -umbellate or simple -umbellate, the ultimate units umbellate or capitulate, sometimes racemose or spicate. Flowers hermaphroditic, staminate, or pistillate, epigynous , actinomorphic . Perianth parts typically (4)-5-(10). Calyx lobes simple and minute or obscure , forming a truncate rim. Petals valvate or imbricate , sometimes calyptrate, the bases broadly inserted. Stamens isomerous, alternipetalous, anthers dorsifixed, introrse, dehiscing by longitudinal slits; filaments inflexed in bud . Ovary syncarpous of 2-5-(12) carpels, each carpel unilocular with apical placentation; stigmas on a style or sessile ; styles free or connate , sometimes confluent with the nectiferous disc of the ovary . Ovules anatropous, pendulous, one per locule , unitegmic, crassinucellate or rarely tenuinucellate. Fruits simple or sometimes multiple, fleshy (rarely dry), usually drupaceous or baccate with a fleshy mesocarp and a separate, variously sclerified endocarp ( pyrene ) around each locule , or rarely a schizocarp with two mericarps. Seeds straight; endosperm copious, oily, uniform or variously ruminate ; embryo minute but well-differentiated.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Aralia L. - most species in seasonally dry forests, usually below 500 m.
  • Dendropanax Decne. & Planch. - moist forests at lowland to mid-elevation areas, usually below 1500 m; centers of diversity in Jamaica, southern Central America, northern South America, and eastern Brazil.
  • Hydrocotyle - widespread in moist habitats, especially in the Andes.
  • Oreopanax Decne. & Planch. - most species in mountainous areas of Central and South America, especially above 1500 m in the Andes; 2 spp. in eastern Brazil.
  • Schefflera J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. - most species in moist habitats at mid to high-elevations, up to 3000 m. Infrageneric groups (Frodin 1995) are well-correlated with geographic areas: "Cephalopanax" in Andean areas above 2000 m, ranging from southern Venezuela to Peru; "Cotylanthes" from southern Central America to northern Ecuador, with an eastern extension to the Venezuelan coastal mountains; "Crepinella" with most species endemic to the "tepuis" of the Guayana Shield and the Amazonian white-sand lowland areas; "Didymopanax" mostly in low to mid-elevation areas of eastern Andean South America, especially in Brazil and southern Venezuela; and "Sciodaphyllum" with most species in the tropical Andes and in southern Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and the western part of the Guayana Shield.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • No characters are always present in Araliaceae. However, the presence of flowers usually grouped in umbels or capitula and nectariferous discs is useful for recognizing members of the family.
Other important characters
  • The woody plants are often sparsely branched with pachycaulous stems.
  • The leaves are often clustered toward apex of branches, with petioles of rather unequal lengths (especially in Dendropanax), and bases sometimes sheathing.
Notable genera and distinguishing features
  • Aralia - the only genus with spinose species in the Neotropics.
  • Hydrocotyle - the only herbaceous genus in the Neotropics.
Useful tips for generic identification
  • Aralia -  Armed or unarmed, terrestrial, mostly deciduous shrubs or trees. Leaves stipulate, base adnate to clasping; blades 1--4-pinnately compound, the rachis articulated; leaflets with margin entire to variously toothed. Inflorescence terminal or lateral; paniculate, corymbose, or compound umbellate, ultimate units umbellules or sometimes capitula or racemules; pedicels articulated (rarely unarticulated). Flowers with 5--10(--12) free, imbricate petals; stamens and carpels isomerous with petals, ovary inferior, styles free to basally or entirely connate. Fruits berry -like drupes.
  • Dendropanax - Glabrous trees or shrubs. Leaves with petioles very variable in length, the stipules short; blades simple and unlobed or palmately lobed, commonly with reddish glandular dots, the margins entire to irregularly toothed. Inflorescences usually terminal, simple (or compound) umbellate or paniculate; ultimate units umbellules (very rarely capitula); pedicels unarticulated. Flowers with 5--8 free, valvate petals; stamens 5--8; carpels 2--8, ovary inferior, styles fully to basally connate. Fruits drupes, 5--8 lobed when dry.
  • Hydrocotyle - Herbs. Leaf blades simple (often peltate and orbicular) to palmately lobed or compound; membranaceous, the margins entire to crenate or dentate. Inflorescences axillary, often simple umbellate but sometimes compound umbellate or forming continuous to interrupted spikes; pedicels unarticulated. Flowers with 5 free, valvate petals; stamens 5; carpels 2, ovary inferior, styles free or basally connate. Fruits dry schizocarps, usually 5-ribbed, flattened laterally.
  • Oreopanax - Pubescent or glabrous, terrestrial or epiphytic shrubs or trees. Leaves with bladesimple or palmately lobed to compound, highly variable in shape, the margins entire or variously toothed. Inflorescences terminal, paniculate, the ultimate units capitula; bracts well-developed; pedicels lacking. Flowers with 5--7 free, valvate petals; stamens 5--7; carpels 2--12; ovary inferior, styles free or connate basally. Fruits drupes.
  • Schefflera - Glabrous to pubescent, terrestrial, epiphytic or hemi-epiphytic trees or shrubs (rarely lianas). Leaves with connate and often ligulate stipules; blades palmately compound to bundle compound (rarely unifolioate or twice compound); leaflets entire to variously toothed or lobed. Inflorescences terminal or pseudolateral, erect or pendant, paniculate, racemose, or simple to compound umbellate, the ultimate units umbellules, capitula, racemules, or spicules; pedicels unarticulated. Flowers with (4--)5(--10) free or calyptrate, valvate petals; stamens typically isomerous with petals; carpels (2--)5(--10); ovary inferior to half-inferior, styles free to fully connate; the disc depressed to flat or nearly hemispherical. Fruits drupes, sometimes laterally compressed.
General Description
Number of genera
  • 5 genera: Aralia (8 spp.), Dendropanax (~75 spp.), Hydrocotyle (~75 spp.), Oreopanax (~85 spp.) and Schefflera (~300 spp.).
General notes
  • Three other genera of the family, Oplopanax (Torr. & A. Gray) Miq., Panax L. and Pseudopanax K. Koch, are native to the Americas, but all are found exclusively in temperate areas.
  • Additional generic names have commonly been applied to some Neotropical taxa of Araliaceae, such as Gilibertia Ruiz & Pav. (under Dendropanax), Crepinella Marchal, Didymopanax Decne. & Planch. and Sciodaphyllum P. Browne (under Schefflera), and Coudenbergia Marchal, Pentapanax Seem. and Sciadodendron Griseb. (under Aralia).
  • Aralia is native.
  • Dendropanax is native.
  • Hydrocotyle is native, but is also represented by several introduced species.
  • Oreopanax is native and endemic to the Neotropics.
  • Schefflera has both native (ca. 300) and cultivated (ca. 5) species.
  • Cussonia Thunb., Fatsia Decne. & Planch., Hedera L., Panax L., Polyscias J.R.Forst. & G.Forst., Tetrapanax K. Koch and Trevesia Vis. each have one or a few species cultivated in the Neotropics.
Notes on delimitation
  • Recent studies have suggested the transfer of a few herbaceous genera traditionally placed in Apiaceae (e.g., Hydrocotyle L. and Trachymene Rudge) to the mostly woody Araliaceae (Plunkett et al. 1996, Plunkett et al. 2004b). As a result, the approximately 75 species of Hydrocotyle found in the Neotropics are now referred to Araliaceae.
Important literature

BORSCHSENIUS, F. 1997. Oreopanax (Araliaceae) in Ecuador. Nordic Journal of Botany 17(4): 373-396.

CANNON, M. J. & CANNON, F. M. 1989. Central American Araliaceae - a precursory study for the Flora Mesoamericana. Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.), Bot. 19: 5-61.

FIASCHI, P. & PIRANI, J.R. 2007. Estudo taxonômico do gênero Schefflera (Araliaceae) na Região Sudeste do Brasil. Bol. Bot. Univ. São Paulo 25: 95-142.

FRODIN, D.G. 1989. Studies in Schefflera (Araliaceae), IV. Synopsis of the Formenkreis comprised of Didymopanaxattenuatus (Sw.) Marchal and allied species, with nomenclatural changes. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 141: 313-319.

FRODIN, D.G. 1995. Neotropical montane Araliaceae: an Overview. In S.P. Churchill, H. Baslev, E. Forero & J.L. Luteyn (eds.) Biodiversity and Conservation of Neotropical Montane Forests. New York Botanical Garden, New York, p. 421-430.

FRODIN, D.G. 1997. Araliaceae. In J. A. Steyermark, P. E. Berry & B. K. Holst (eds.) Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana vol. 3. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, p. 1-31.

FRODIN, D.G. 2004. Araliaceae. In N. Smith, S. A. Mori, A. Henderson, D. W. Stevenson & S. V. Heald (eds.) Flowering Plants of the Neotropics. Princeton University Press, Princeton, p. 28-31.

FRODIN, D.G. & GOVAERTS, R. 2003. World Checklist and Bibliography of Araliaceae. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

MACBRIDE, T.F. 1959. Flora of Peru: Araliaceae. Field. Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 13: 9-43

MAGUIRE, B., STEYERMARK, J.A. & FRODIN, D.G. 1984. Araliaceae, p. 46-82. In B. Maguire, R.S. Cowan, J.J. Wurdack & collaborators. The Botany of the Guayana Highland - Part XII. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 38: 1-84.

MARCHAL, E. 1878. Hederaceae. In C.F.P. von Martius & A.G. Eichler (eds.) Flora brasiliensis. Typographia Regia, Monachii, vol. 11, pt. 1, p. 229-258, tab. 66-71.

MATHIAS, M.E. 1936. The genus Hydrocotyle in northern South America. Brittonia 2: 201-237.

MATHIAS, M.E., & CONSTANCE L. 1951. Supplementary notes on South American Hydrocotyle. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 78: 300-309.

PLUNKETT, G.M., SOLTIS, D.E. & SOLTIS, P.S. 1996. Higher level relationships of Apiales (Apiaceae and Araliaceae) based on rbcL sequences. American Journal of Botany 83: 499-515.

PLUNKETT, G.M., CHANDLER, G.T., LOWRY II, P.P., PINNEY, S.M. & SPRENKLE, T.S. 2004a. Recent advances in understanding Apiales and a revised classification. South African Journal of Botany 70: 371-381.

PLUNKETT, G.M., WEN, J. & LOWRY II, P.P. 2004b. Infrafamilial classifications and characters in Araliaceae: Insights from the phylogenetic analysis of nuclear (ITS) and plastid (trnL-trnF) sequence data. Plant Syst. & Evolution 245: 1-39.

PLUNKETT, G.M., LOWRY II, P.P, FRODIN, D.G. & WEN, J. 2005. Phylogeny and geography of Schefflera: pervasive polyphyly in the largest genus of Araliaceae. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 92: 202-224.


Timothy M. A. Utteridge and Laura V. S. Jennings (2022). Trees of New Guinea. Kew Publishing. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

A large family of 50 genera and c. 1400 species, distributed throughout the subtropical and tropical regions of the globe and less diverse in temperate regions; with six arborescent genera in New Guinea found from the lowlands, including coastal and beach forests, to subalpine shrubbery at 4000 m.
Members of Araliaceae are recognised by the variously compound leaves with sheathing leaf bases and, especially, the inflorescences which can be umbellate to racemose but with the ultimate units being umbels or heads, with flowers possessing an inferior ovary; in addition, Araliaceae often have conspicuous leaf scars and prominent lenticels on leaves and stems.
Morphology General Habit
Trees, shrubs, lianas, sometimes woody epiphytes, unarmed or with prickles/spines
Morphology General
Sap (clear or brown) sometimes present
Morphology General Indumentum
Hairs often present, stellate or simple trichomes or bristles. Stipules absent or forming a ligule or membranous border along the petiole. Leaves alternate, rarely opposite, simple and often palmately lobed, palmately compound, or 1–3-pinnately compound, usually clustered at ends of branches, base of petiole often broad and sheathing stem
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence terminal or more rarely lateral, variously umbellate, compound-umbellate to racemose-paniculate, but ultimate units usually umbels or heads
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers bisexual or unisexual (andromonoecious or dioecious), actinomorphic, often 5-merous (can be 3 to numerous); pedicels often articulated below the ovary; calyx lobes small or absent; petals (3–)5(–20), free or rarely united, valvate or sometimes imbricate; stamens usually as many as the petals and alternating with them, sometimes numerous; anthers 2-celled, introrse, longitudinally dehiscent; disk present, epigynous, fleshy; ovary inferior, 1 to many celled; ovules pendulous, solitary (2 per locule but 1 abortive); styles and stigmas as many as the cells, free or partially united
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a drupe or berry, sometimes laterally compressed, exocarp fleshy, pyrenes cartilaginous or membranous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 1 per pyrene, embryo small, endosperm smooth or ruminate.

Araliaceae, J. R. Tennant. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 0

Morphology General Habit
Trees, shrubs, lianes or (rarely) ± herbaceous, sometimes epiphytic, unarmed (at least in East Africa), with a simple or stellate indumentum, or glabrous
Morphology Leaves
Leaves simple or compound; lamina coriaceous or chartaceous, often in some genera with differences in texture and outline between those of juvenile and mature parts of the plant
Morphology Leaves Stipules
Stipules usually present
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences generally ample, ultimate branching very often umbellate or racemose
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers small, regular, often greenish-yellow, hermaphrodite, polygamous or dioecious
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx ± obconic, with tube adnate to ovary; free margin erect and very small
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 4–10, valvate, usually free, sometimes connate and calyptrate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens equal in number to the petals and alternate with them, rarely more numerous, inserted (with them) on a disk Anthers dorsifixed, dithecous, longitudinally dehiscent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary inferior with 2–8 locules; styles distinct throughout or connate below into a stylopodium; ovules solitary, pendulous from the apex of each locule
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a berry or a drupe, often with fleshy exocarp and an endocarp divided into distinct pyrenes or hardly distinct from the exocarp
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds with copious ruminate or smooth endosperm; embryo small and located near the hilum

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

Morphology General Habit
Mostly woody
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate or rarely opposite, simple or compound; stipules often adnate to the petiole
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual, spicate, racemose, umbellate or capitate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx adnate to the ovary, small
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals valvate or slightly imbricate, usually free
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens free, alternate with the petals; anthers 2-celled, opening lengthwise
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Nectaries
Disk epigynous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary inferior, 1–or more-celled; styles free or connate; ovules solitary in each cell, pendulous from the inner angle
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a berry or drupe
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds with copious endosperm and small embryo

Araliaceae, J. F. M. Cannon. Flora Zambesiaca 4. 1978

Morphology General Habit
Trees, shrubs, lianes, suffrutices (very rarely herbaceous outside the FZ area)
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate (rarely opposite), simple, pinnate or digitate; often coriaceous, glabrous or with a simple or stellate indumentum, the leaves of juvenile shoots often differing considerably from those of mature foliage; stipules frequently conspicuous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers small, hermaphrodite (monoecious or dioecious outside the FZ area), actinomorphic; arranged in umbels, racemes or in compound combinations of these structures
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx inconspicuous, with the tube adnate to the ovary
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals (4)5(10), valvate or slightly imbricate, usually free but sometimes joined to form a calyptra
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens free, alternating with the petals and usually similar in number, but occasionally more numerous; anthers opening by longitudinal slits
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary inferior, with 2–8 locules; styles often forming a distinct stylopodium and only free at the apex, sometimes free throughout Ovules solitary in each loculus, anatropous, pendulous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit a berry or drupe
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds endospermous, endosperm smooth or ruminate; embryo very small


  • 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 Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Neotropikey

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

    • Trees of New Guinea