Altingiaceae Horan.

This family is accepted.


Every, J.L.R. (2009). Neotropical Altingiaceae.


Trees, sometimes up to 40 m tall, deciduous , monoecious ; secretory canals containing aromatic, resinous compounds present in the bark , wood and leaves; sapwood white; indumentum simple , only present in axils of leaf nervation, otherwise glabrous . Leaves alternate , spiraling, long petiolate , simple , palmately 3-7 lobed , margins finely serrate , dentate or rarely entire , venation palmate , actinodromous ; stipules small, deciduous , borne on the petiole base. Inflorescences indeterminate, long pedunculate; staminate inflorescences of terminal racemes composed of stamen clusters; pistillate inflorescences axillary , pendent globose heads. Flowers small, unisexual or andro- monoecious , actinomorphic , sessile , inconspicuous; perianth lacking in male flowers and with 12-50 rudimentary, tepaloid lobes or scales in female flowers; stamens (1-)4-10(-100), anthers basifixed, opening by longitudinal slits; ovary (semi)inferior, syncarpous, carpels 2 and free at apex , bi-locular, styles 2, persistent , each with a stigma . Fruit made up of globose septicidal capsules, capsules from whole inflorescence often forming a multiple fruit c. 3cm in diam., armed by hardened styles; exocarp leathery; endocarp bony. Seeds numerous, ovoid , winged , hard, drying orangey-cream.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • México to Nicaragua.
  • Common in Pinus L. and Quercus L. forests.
  • Found at 800-2,100m above sea level.
  • Cool upland regions, moist or wet often mixed forest mostly on mountain sides or along streams.
  • Can be a dominant tree especially in the Coban forests of Guatemala.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Deciduous trees.
  • Resin canals.
  • Leaves alternate and spiraling.
  • Palmately lobedlamina.
  • Flowers small and rudimentary.
  • Perianth members absent.
  • Anthers basifixed.
  • Inferior ovary.
  • Gynoecium 2-merous.
  • Multiple, heavily-armed fruit.
  • Wingedseed.
Key differences from similar families
  • Resembles Casuarinaceae in fruit but differs in leaf form (Casuarinaceae have reduced needle-like leaves).
  • Hamameliaceae have stipules borne on the stem adjacent to the petiole (vs. borne on the petiole base) and no resin canals nor spirally arranged leaves.
Other important characters
  • Tall and spire-like crowns.
  • Fresh, bright, verdant foliage makes them noticeable in spring. 
  • Stipulate (caducous).
General Description
  • Native
Number of genera
  • One: Liquidambar L. (one species - L. styraciflua L.). 
  • The other genus in Altingiaceae is Altingia Lindl.Nor. which has an East Asian and Malesian distribution.
General notes
  • Wind pollinated and dispersed.
  • Self-incompatible.
  • Valuable as a furniture and timber tree.
  • Popular ornamental trees in temperate areas due to large leaves which turn brilliant reds in Autumn. and the sweet smelling spring flowers.
  • Used as an incense and flavouring.
  • The other genus in Altingiaceae is Altingia Lindl.Nor. which has an East Asian and Malesian distribution.
Notes on delimitation
  • Previously part of the Hamamelidaceae.
  • Treated as a separate family due to both distinct morphological characters and DNA sequences (Ickert-Bond et al. 2005; Ickert-Bond & Wen 2006).
  • Placed in the Saxifragales in a clade with Paeoniaceae, Hamamelidaceae, Cercidiphyllaceae and Daphniphyllaceae (APG2, 2003).
Important literature APG 2. 2003. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Bot. J. Linnean Soc. 141: 399-436.Brummitt, R.K. 2007. In: Heywood, V.H., Brummitt, R.K., Culham, A. and Seberg, O. (eds.). Flowering Plant Families of the World, Pp 162-3. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond.Endress, P. K. 1993. Hamamelidaceae. In: Kubitzki, K., Fohwer, J. G., and Bittrich, V.(eds.) Families and genera of vascular plants. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Pp322-331. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.Ickert-Bond, S. M., & Wen, J. 2006. Phylogeny and biogeography of Altingiaceae: Evidence from combined analysis of five non-coding chloroplast regions. Mol. Phyl. Evol. 39: 512-528.

Ickert-Bond, S. M. et al. 2005. Comparative infructescence morphology in Liquidambar (Altingiaceae) and its evolutionary significance. American J. Bot. 92: 1234-1255.

Judd, W. S., Campbell, C. S., Kellogg, E. A., Stevens, P. F., Donoghue, M. J. 2008. Plant Systematics: a phylogenetic approach 3rd ed.p.344-6. Sinauer Associates, Massachusetts.

Maas, P.J.M. & Westra, L.Y. Th. 2005.  Neotropical Plant Families. 3rd ed, p.147. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

Standley, P. C. & Steyermark, J. A. 1946. Flora of Guatemala. Fieldiana Bot. 24(4): 428-9.

Stevens, P.F. (2008). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 onwards., D.W. 2004. Hamamelidaceae. Pp.179-180. In: Smith, N., Mori, S.A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D.W. and Heald, S.V. (eds.). Flowering Plants of the Neotropics. The New York Botanical Garden, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version 3rd March 2009.

Altingiaceae Horan. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Osnov. Bot. 271. 1841 (1841)

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.