Lepidobotryaceae J.Léonard

This family is accepted.


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

Morphology General Habit
Trees, shrubs or climbers
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate, pinnate trifoliolate or unifoliolate with a jointed petiole, leaflets entire, pinnately nerved; stipules and stipels caducous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual, actinomorphic; in axillary or terminal panicles or slender or short catkin-like racemes
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 5, imbricate, united in the lower part
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5, imbricate, free
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Stamens 10, inserted on the margin of a fleshy disk; filaments more or less connate at the base into a short tube, sterile in female flowers; anthers 2-celled, dorsifixed, opening by slits lengthwise
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Ovary superior, 5- or 3-celled; styles 5 or 3, free or shortly connate at the base; ovules 2 in each cell, on axile placentas, collateral or superposed
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit berry-like, indehiscent or septicidally dehiscent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds covered by a fleshy, sometimes laciniate aril, with endosperm; embryo straight or oblique, with 2 fleshy foliaceous cotyledons


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


Dioecious , evergreen trees, bark with bitter taste, sparse indumentum of small simple trichomes. Leaves alternate , distichous , pulvinate , unifoliolate; stipule and stipel present, very fugacious, leaving scars; lamina chartaceous , entire , venation pinnate . Inflorescences terminal (appearing leaf opposed), congested, of spicate panicles, small bracts present at base, peduncle puberulous. Flowers minute, greenish, bracteolate, sessile , cryptically unisexual, male flowers with rudimentary ovules, female flowers with anthers without pollen , actinomorphic ; calyx with 5, free , imbricate sepals, ciliate ; corolla with 5 free , imbricate petals, apically ciliate ; stamens 10 in two whorls, ± connate basally, free of perianth , antepetalous stamens have long filaments, antesepalous ± sessile (no free part), anthers basifixed, dehiscing lengthways, filaments fused into a nectary tube (more conspicuous in male flowers); ovary superior , 2-carpellate, 2 locules , 2 ovules per carpel , stylodia short or sessile . Fruit capsular, coriaceous or woody , ovoid , septicidal , dehiscing irregularly, endocarp distinct, columella persisting, 2 horny endocarps, one nearly completely surrounding seed and in shape of a snail shell, other usually empty and smaller, caducous ; seed one rarely two, black with reddish-orange aril .

General Description
Notes on delimitation
  • Member of the Celastrales (APG 2, 2003).
  • Sister group of a clade containing Celastraceae and Parnassiaceae (Zhang & Simmons, 2006).
Number of genera
  • One genus in the New World (Ruptiliocarpon Hammel & N. Zamora), with one species - Ruptiliocarponcaracolito Hammel & N. Zamora.
  • The other genus in Lepidobotryaceae is the monotypicLepidobotrys (L. staudtii Engl. and restricted to tropical Africa.
General notes
  • Known locally in Costa Rica as Cedro caracolito, a reference to the horny endocarp shaped like a macaroni shell.
  • Takes its Latin name from the Latin for irregularly splitting (= ruptilis) and the Greek for fruit< /A> (= carpon).
Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Scattered throughout Neotropics south to Peru.
  • Lowland primary forest on well-drained soils, from sea level to 400 metres altitude.
Other important characters
  • Stipels and stipules quickly falling.
Key differences from similar families

The familes below differ from Lepidobotryaceae in possessing the following characters:


  • Herbs.
  • Simple leaves.
  • Terminal cymose or racemose inflorescence.
  • Bisexual flowers.
  • Seeds exarillate.


  • Simple leaves.
  • Sepals basally connate.
  • Petals appendaged.
  • Fruits drupaceous.
  • Seeds exarillate.


  • Hermaphroditic or androdioecious.
  • Exstipulate.
  • Nectariferous disk lacking.
  • Ovary 5-merous.
  • Fruit a loculicidal capsule.


  • Fused sepals.
  • Unicarpellate.
  • Fruits legumes.
  • Seeds exarillate.


  • Alternate spiraling leaves.
  • Exstipulate.
  • Intrastaminal or gynophoreal separate disk.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Plants dioecious.
  • Pulvinate leaves with entire margins.
  • Inflorescence seemingly leaf-opposed.
  • Flowers small and inconspicuous subtended by three small bracteoles.
  • Free perianth parts.
  • 10 stamens - the 5 opposite the petals longer than those opposite the sepals, fused to form a nectary tube.
  • Gynoecium 2-carpellate, 2 locules, 2 ovules per carpel.
  • Ovarysuperior.
  • Fruit an irregularly dehiscentcapsule.
  • Horny endocarp.
  • Seed arillate.
Important literature

APG 2. 2003. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 141: 399-436

Hammel, B.E. & Smith, N. 2004. Lepidobotryaceae. In: Smith, N., Mori, S. A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D. W. & Heald, S. V. (eds). Flowering Plants of the Neotropics. pp. 213-4. The New York Botanical Garden, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Hammel, B.E. & Zamora, N. 1993. Ruptiliocarpon (Lepidobotryaceae): A new arborescent genus and tropical American link to Africa, with a reconsideration of the family. Novon 3: 408-417.

Heywood, V.H. 2007. Lepidobotryaceae. In: V.H. Heywood, R.K. Brummitt, A. Culham & O. Seberg (eds). Flowering plant families of the world, pp. 191-2. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kubitzki, K. 2004. Lepidobotryaceae. In Kubitzki, K. (ed.), amilies and genera of vascular plants vol. 6. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. pp. 233-5.  Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Maas, P. J. M. & Westra, L. Y. Th. 2005. Neotropical Plant Families. 3rd ed. p. 164. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell.

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

Tobe, H. & Hammel, B. 1993. Floral morphology, embryology and seed anatomy of Ruptiliocarponcaracolito (Lepidobotryaceae). Novon 3: 423-428.

Watson, L. and M. J. Dallwitz (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version: 14th December 2000.

Zhang, L & Simmons, M. P. 2006. Phylogeny and delimitation of the Celastrales inferred from nuclear and plastid genes. Systematic Botany 31(1): 122-137.

Lepidobotryaceae J.Léonard appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Bull. Jard. Bot. État Bruxelles 20: 38. 1950 [Jun 1950] (1950)

Accepted by

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

  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • 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.