Actinidiaceae Engl. & Gilg

This family is accepted.


Zappi, D. (2009). Neotropical Actinidiaceae.


Shrubs to treelets, rarely trees, often climbing, with twining stems; plants monoecious or dioecious . Leaves simple , alternate , estipulate, entire , margins always serrate to crenate , hispid hairs almost always present, especially on stems, inflorescences and petioles. Inflorescence racemose or paniculate, bracteate. Flowers showy, hermaphrodite (unisexual in Actinidia), actinomorphic , bracteolate, often drooping or facing downards; sepals usually (3-)5(-8), free ; petals (3-)4-5(-8), white or cream-coloured, rarely pink; stamens many (more than 30), fused to inside of petals, anthers 2-locular; ovary superior , (3-) 5 (-7)-carpelate, multi-ovulate, placentation axile , ovary crowned by several stigmas.  Fruit a succulent , indehiscent berry , sometimes covered in stiff hairs; seeds very numerous, small, black, tear-shaped.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • In the Neotropics, the Actinidiaceae is represented by the native genus Saurauia (absent from Brasil) and by the cultivated Actinidiachinensis Planch., the kiwi fruit.
Other important characters
  • Leaves alternate, simple, sometimes clustered together, almost always with long, hispid hairs.
  • Berry sometimes hairy.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Leaves with many pairs of veins, margins serrate.
  • Flowers drooping, with indefinite number of stamens, showy, clustered in dense inflorescences.
  • Ovary with many locules and multi-ovulate, crowned by several stigmas.
  • Berry with many small seeds and fleshy pulp.
Key differences from similar families
  • Resembles Clethraceae but flowers are more showy and fruit a berry.
General Description
  • Saurauia occurs from Central Mexico to Bolivia but  is absent from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile.
Notes on delimitation
  • The Actinidiaceae fits within order Ericales, together with the Ericaceae and Clethraceae (APG II, 2003, Souza & Lorenzi 2005).
Number of genera
  • 1. Saurauia Willd. - 280 species worldwide, of which nearly 50 occur in the Neotropics.
  • 2. Actinidia L. - Actinidia deliciosa (A. Chev.) Liang & A.R. Ferg. is often cultivated for its edible fruit, the kiwi.
Important literature

APG II, 2003. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 141(4): 399-436.

Soejarto, D.D. 1980. Revision of South American Saurauia (Actinidiaceae). Fieldiana (Botany), new series 2: 1-141.

Souza, V.C. & Lorenzi, H. 2005. Botânica Sistemática: guia ilustrativo para identificação das famílias de Angiospermas da flora brasileira, baseado em APG II. Nova Odessa, Brazil: Instituto Plantarum.

Actinidiaceae Engl. & Gilg appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Syllabus (ed. 9 & 10) 279. 1924 [6 Nov 1924] (1924)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016)

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Neotropikey

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