Tetrameristaceae Hutch.

This family is accepted.


Sasaki, D. (2009). Neotropical Tetrameristaceae.


Trees or shrubs. Leaves simple , alternate (spiral), entire , leathery, glossy, pinnately veined, margins entire , sessile or subsessile, stipules absent. Inflorescences axillary , condensed racemes. Flowers hermaphrodite , actinomorphic ; sepals 5, free , with numerous glandular pits adaxially,  aestivation imbricate ; petals 5, free aestivation imbricate ; stamens 5, free from perianth , filaments flattened, base connate , alternate with petals, anthers basifixed, dehiscing via longitudinal slits; ovary superior , carpels and locules 5, syncarpous, placentation axile , ovule 1 in each locule ; style 1, undivided; stigma simple to minutely lobed . Fruits berries, endocarp firm; seeds 4-5, relatively large.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • There is only one Neotropical genus in the Tetrameristaceae (Pentamerista Maguire), which occurs in the savannas in northern South America (Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil).
Key differences from similar families
  • The Theaceae differs from Tetrameristaceae by having: serrate leaves, usually solitary flowers, numerous stamens, capsular fruits and seeds usually with oblong apical wings.
  • The Pellicieraceae differs from Tetrameristaceae by growing in mangroves and having: buttresses, leaves usually with extrafloral nectaries and woody fruits.
Notable genera and distinguishing features
  • There is only one Neotropical genus in the family (Pentamerista).
Useful tips for generic identification

See Distinguishing characters.

Other important characters
  • Leaves frequently glabrous or nearly so.
  • Leaves sessile or subsessile.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Trees or shrubs.
  • Leaves simple, spirally alternate, concentrated at the top of branch.
  • Stipules absent.
  • Inflorescences condensed racemes.
  • Flowers actinomorphic.
  • Flowers 5-merous (sepals 5, petals 5, stamens 5, carpels 5, locules 5, ovules 5).
  • Sepals and petals free.
  • Sepals with glands pits adaxially.
  • Ovarysuperior.
  • Fruits berries.
General Description
Number of genera
  • Pentamerista Maguire is the only Neotropical genus of the family, with only one species, P. neotropica Maguire.
  • Pentamerista is endemic to northern South America.
General notes
  • According to APG (Stevens 2008), Tetrameristaceae also includes the genus Pelliciera, which is treated separately by Neotropikey (in Pellicieraceae).
Notes on delimitation
  • Tetrameristaceae is placed in the Theales as a subfamily by Theales by Takhtajan (1997) and Cronquist (1988).
  • According to the APG, Tetrameristaceae does not have close affinities with Theaceae, but does with the Marcgraviaceae (Ericales) (Stevens 2008).
Important literature

Cronquist, A. 1993. An intergrated system of classification of flowering plants. Columbia University Press, New York.

Culham, A. 2007. Tetrameristaceae. In: Heywood, V.H., Brummit, R.K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. (eds.). Flowering Plant Families of the World, p. 318.Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Prince, L.M. & Parks, C.R. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships of Theaceae inferred from chloroplast DNA sequence data. Amer. J. Bot. 88: 2309-2320.

Stevens, P.F. 2008. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website, version 9. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/.

Stevenson, D.W.T. 2004. Tetrameristaceae. In: N. Smith, S. A. Mori, A. Henderson, D. W. Stevenson & S. V. Heald (eds.). Flowering Plants of the Neotropics, Pp. 368-369. New York Botanical Garden & Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Takhtajan, A. 1997. Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press, New York.


Edwards, S.L. (2009). Neotropical Pellicieraceae.


Mangrove trees to 15m tall, 15-20cm in diameter (above buttresses). Trunks with enlarged fluted boles, buttresses 1.5-2m tall (average high tide level), 1.5m in diameter, formed by the emergence of short-born roots . Leaves spirally arranged, clustered at apex of branches; blades sessile , simple , slightly asymmetric , oblanceolate , margins entire with deciduous glands along longest edge, pair of glands at base of leaf, coriaceous ; veins obscure ; stipules absent. Flowers solitary, in leaf axils or terminal , sessile ; bracteoles 2, subtending and enveloping flower bud , pink; sepals 5, free , ovate , adaxially concave, proximal half of adaxial surface covered in glands ; petals 5, free , narrow, elongate, dehiscent , white to pinkish red; stamens 5, appressed to longitudinal grooves of ovary , just surpassing style ; anthers 5, basally sagittate , narrow; ovary superior , carpels 2, syncarpous, locules 2 (sometimes 1 by abortion), 1 ovule per locule , placentation axile ; style longitudinally grooved, stigma barely bifid. Fruit indehiscent , woody , turbinate , corrugated, strongly beaked, covered with resinous pustules; seed 1, endosperm absent, embryo enlarged, well developed.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Pelliciera rhizophorae Planch. & Triana is mostly restricted to the Pacific coast of Central America and northern South America, from the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica to the Esmeraldas river, Ecuador.
  • A few scattered populations on the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia.
Key differences from similar families

While it may be confused with Tetramesitaceae to which it is closely related, characteristic features of Pelliciera are:

  • Large, showy, solitary flowers with two subtending bracts that envelop the flowerbud.
  • The leaves are asymmetric with deciduousglandular teeth along one margin.
  • The fruits have one seed.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Mangrove trees.
  • Trunks with fluted buttresses.
  • Leaves spiral, simple, asymmetrical.
  • Extrafloral nectaries and dehiscentglands along one of the leaf margins.
  • Flowers 5-merous, showy, star-like.
  • Fruitindehiscent, turbinate, woody.
General Description
  • Native.
Number of genera
  • Monogeneric and monospecific: Pelliciera rhizophorae Planch. & Triana
Notes on delimitation
  • Pelliciera Planch. & Triana has in the past been placed in the Theaceae or Ternstroemiaceae.
  • Currently it is either regarded as being a family in its own right or merged with the Tetrameristaceaesensu lato (Lens et al., 2005).
  • Pelliciera and Tetrameristaceae both have unusual glandular pits on the inner surface of the sepals and one single ovule per locule (Cronquist, 1981). The wood anatomy studies have also found them to be closely related (Lens et al., 2005).
Important literature

Castillo-Cárdenas, M.F., Toro-Perea, N. and Cárdenas-Henao, H.. 2005. Population Genetic Structure of Neotropical Mangrove Species on the Colombian Pacific Coast: Pelliciera rhizophorae (Pellicieraceae). Biotropica 37(2): 266-273.

Collins, J.P., Berkelhamer, R.C. and Mesler, M.. 1977. Notes on the Natural History of the MangrovePelliciera rhizophorae Tr. & Pl. (Theaceae). Brenesia 10/11: 17-29.

Cronquist, A. 1981. An integrated system of the classification of flowering plants. Colombia University Press, New York.

Frame, D. 2004. Pellicieraceae. In: N. Smith, S.A. Mori, A. Henderson, D.W. Stevenson and S.V. Head (eds.), Flowering Plant of the Neotropics, pp. 289-290. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Fuchs, H.P. 1970. Echological and palynological notes on Pelliciera rhizophorae. Acta Bot.Neerl. 19: 884-94.

Gentry, A.H. 1996. A field Guide to the families and genera of woody plants of Northwest South America. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Jiménez, J.A. 1984. A hypothesis to explain the reduced distribution of the mangrovePelliciera rhizophorae Tr. & Pl. Biotropica 16: 304-08.

Lens, F. Dressler, S. Jansen, S., Van Evelghem, F. and Smets, E. 2005. Relationships within balsaminoid Ericales: a wood anatomical approach. American Journal of Botany. 92: 941-953.

Tetrameristaceae Hutch. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Fam. Fl. Pl., Dicot., ed. 2 277. 1959 [4 Jun 1959] (1959)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Neotropikey

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