Fabaceae Lindl.

Macrolobium Schreb.

This genus is accepted, and its native range is Central & S. Tropical America to Trinidad.


Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)


The Detarieae sens. lat. are pantropical in distribution, with c. 58% of the genera confined to Africa (incl. Madagascar), c. 20% to the Neotropics, and c. 12% to tropical Asia. Only Copaifera, Crudia and Cynometra are pantropical (and all possibly non monophyletic) and Afzelia, Guibourtia, Hymenaea, Intsia and Sindora are native to at least two of these regions. The apparent high level of diversity in the African tropics may in part be an artefact of the (relatively) greater taxonomic effort that has been invested in the study of the African taxa. Characteristic of African Detarieae taxonomy has been the splitting off of disparate elements as segregate genera, while this has often not been the case in the Neotropics. Both regions, however, currently contain large paraphyletic assemblages requiring detailed species-level analysis. Eighty-two genera and from (729) – 747 – (765) species are treated here in Detarieae sens. lat. (Fig. 21). Of the 132 (extant) species so far assessed for IUCN red data status, 97 have categories of threat. Of these 73 are assessed as vulnerable, 13 are endangered and 11 are critically endangered.

The remarkable range and complex patterns of floral modifications found in the Detarieae sens. lat. have proved a considerable challenge to the establishment of widely accepted and clearly circumscribed generic groupings. Based on the work of Léonard (1957) and Cowan & Polhill (1981a & b), ten informal groups of genera were proposed; the Cynometra, Hymenostegia, Hymenaea, Crudia, Detarium and Brownea groups in tribe Detarieae, and the Berlinia, Macrolobium, Amherstia and Brachystegia groups in tribe Amherstieae. Genera with imbricate bracteole aestivation were assigned to Detarieae whilst those with valvate bracteole aestivation were placed in Amherstieae. Polhill (1994) retained these generic groupings with a few additions to accommodate recently described genera, and merged the two tribes into a single broadly defined tribe, Detarieae sens. lat. Breteler (1995) proposed the recognition of two tribes within Detarieae sens. lat., separated according to the relative size and position of the paired bracteoles before anthesis. Essentially, this resulted in the reassignment of Cowan & Polhill’s Amherstia group genera (Amherstia, Tamarindus and Humboldtia) from Amherstieae to Detarieae with the remaining genera forming tribe Macrolobieae. In 1999, Breteler (pers. comm.) proposed a modified Breteler (1995) tribal system in which Macrolobieae was maintained, the circumscription of Detarieae was greatly narrowed and the genera newly excluded from Detarieae were together recognised as Cynometreae sens. strict.

The first comprehensive studies of phylogenetic relationships in tribe Detarieae sens. lat., were the analyses of Bruneau et al. (2000; 2001), based on nucleotide sequence data from the chloroplast trnL intron. They found that tribes Detarieae and Macrolobieae formed a well supported monophyletic group, which included all genera placed previously in Detarieae sens. lat., except Umtiza. Bruneau et al. (2000) examined 71 genera, with the African taxa most widely sampled. The key results of the analysis were that none of the generic groupings proposed by Cowan and Polhill (1981a & b) and Polhill (1994) were supported as strictly monophyletic, and the majority of the members of tribe Macrolobieae (although not Macrolobium) were placed as a monophyletic group derived within Detarieae sens. lat. These analyses also repeatedly recognised a second group of related genera made up entirely of resin-producing taxa, with the exception of some species of Guibourtia. The resins can be seen as translucent gland dots in the leaflets and (sometimes) other organs. Within the resin producing taxa, the genus Prioria and several members of Cowan & Polhill’s Crudia group were consistently placed together (see taxonomic notes under individual genera in main text). Another subclade within the resin-producing Detarieae comprising six members of Polhill’s Detarium group was repeatedly recognised (Bruneau et al., 2000; 2001; Fougère-Danezan et al., 2003). In addition, in the trnL intron analysis, the five sampled members of Cowan and Polhill’s Brownea group were consistently placed together with Macrolobium, although this grouping was not upheld in a more recent molecular and combined molecular-morphological analysis (Herendeen et al., 2003a). Within the exclusively African Macrolobieae of Bruneau et al. (2001), a well supported subclade of six genera was recognised by Gervais & Bruneau (2002) and as the ‘babjit’ clade sensu Wieringa & Gervais (2003). Bruneau et al. (2000; 2001) confirmed the view of Polhill (1994) that the two tribes Detarieae and Macrolobieae (sensu Breteler, 1995) are best considered a single entity. Evidence from ontogenetic studies by Tucker (2000, 2001, 2002a) challenged the validity of bracteole aestivation as a criterion for subdividing Detarieae sens. lat. and identified a set of character states associated with two modes of floral development (Circular and Omega) whose distribution amongst detarioid genera does not support Polhill’s groups.

The analyses of Herendeen et al. (2003a) united a morphological dataset with the chloroplast trnL intron dataset of Bruneau et al. (2001). The combined analysis provided mixed results within Detarieae sens. lat. compared with the molecular dataset alone. Near the base of the clade, and within some subclades, greater resolution was provided but as several groups were not well supported, it would be premature to emphasise the details of this greater resolution. Elsewhere the addition of morphological characters produced weaker resolution and a less robust phylogeny due either to conflicting phylogenetic signal or increased homoplasy in the morphological data or both. The order of taxa followed here (Fig. 21) represents a synthesis of the present understanding of putative relationships within this (perhaps most morphologically diverse) tribe in the Leguminosae. Unsampled genera in the combined analysis are inserted into this order where morphological evidence appears to suggest close relationships.

Whilst significant progress has been made since Polhill (1994), further studies (particularly including the non-African members of the larger and less well understood genera) are needed before a new comprehensive classification of the Detarieae sens. lat., based on a synthesis of all available data, can be established.

Macrolobium was first described with a single neotropical species and in 1806, Palisot de Beauvais described Anthonotha with a single African species; for nearly 150 years the two genera were then treated as congeneric under Macrolobium until Louis (1949) suggested that the African and neotropical species again be treated as a separate genus. The African species of Macrolobium were transferred to four exclusively African genera by Léonard who reinstated Anthonotha (Léonard, 1955: 201-202) and described three new genera, Gilbertiodendron, Paramacrolobium and Pellegriniodendron. Cowan (1953) explicitly excluded all the African taxa from his revision of 48 species of neotropical Macrolobium. The genus is much in need of revision; Macrolobium as presently circumscribed is very diverse morphologically and is doubtfully monophyletic, as indicated by Bruneau et al. (2001) and Herendeen et al. (2003a), although further sampling is needed
Trees or shrubs
Tropical lowland rain forest, often along rivers and in seasonally inundated places, or in seasonally dry woodland and wooded grassland
Centred in S America (most diversity in Amazonia with 2 spp. to the Atlantic coast in SE Brazil, also west from Venezuela, Columbia, Peru to Ecuador in foothills on either side of the Andes); few spp. in C America (Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama)

Used for timber, fish poisons and as ornamentals

Native to:

Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela

Macrolobium Schreb. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status Has image?
Pennington, R.T. [400], Guyana 59250.000 No
Lleras, E. [17322], Amazonas K000834985 Yes
Schultes, R.E. [8073], Pará K000834989 Yes
Prance, G.T. [11763], Amazonas K000834996 Yes
Damião, C. [2585], Amazonas K000835003 Yes
Prance, G.T. [5019], Amazonas K000834992 Yes
Daly, D.C. [8309], Acre K000834721 Yes
Lewis, G.P. [s.n.], Amazonas K000834998 Yes
Taylor, E.L. [E1088], Maranhão K000835004 Yes
Coêlho, L.F. [652], Amazonas K000835002 Yes
Damião, C. [2708], Amazonas K000835000 Yes
Ferreira, C.A.C. [7077], Amazonas K000834997 Yes
Santos, M.R. [240], Amapá K000835005 Yes
Prance, G.T. [11604], Amazonas K000834995 Yes
Burchell, W.J. [5188], São Paulo K000834990 Yes
Damião, C. [2829], Amazonas K000835001 Yes
Traill, J.W.H. [208a], Amazonas K000834988 Yes
Damião, C. [2563], Amazonas K000834999 Yes
Campbell, D.G. [P21862], Amazonas K000834986 Yes
Campbell, D.G. [P21961], Amazonas K000834984 Yes
Prance, G.T. [25162], Brazil K000834987 Yes
Schnell, R. [11383], French Guiana K000834993 Yes
Coomes, D. [72], Venezuela K000834994 Yes
Spruce [3330], Venezuela Outea K000834792 Yes

First published in Gen. Pl., ed. 8[a], 1: 30 (1789)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.

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