Viburnaceae Raf.

First published in Ann. Gen. Sci. Phys. 6: 87. 1820 [Oct-Dec 1820] (1820)nom. cons.
This family is accepted


Every, J.L.R. (2010). Neotropical Adoxaceae.


Small trees or shrubs.  Leaves opposite, simple , lamina dissected and palmatifid (Viburnum L.), entire or compound and imparipinnate (Sambucus L.); margins entire , dentate or serrate ; primary venation pinnate , secondary venation palmate to pinnate ; stipules or stipule -like glandular appendages present or absent; indumentum not uncommon, stellate in ViburnumInflorescence terminal (Sambucus) or axillary corymbs, cymes, panicles or umbels.  Flowers bisexual , actinomorphic , 5- merous (rarely 4- merous ), bracteate or not; epigynous disk present (in Sambucus); calyx inconspicuous; corolla members fused; stamens 5, adnate to corolla and alternating with corolla lobes, anthers dorsifixed and dehiscing via full-length longitudinal slits; ovary inferior to partly inferior, carpels (1)2-5(8), syncarpous, locules (1)3(5), stigma more or less non stylate.  Fruit indehiscent either a berry (Sambucus) or a drupe (Viburnum).  Seeds (1)3(5).

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Mesophytic areas throughout the Neotropics.
Useful tips for generic identification
  • Sambucus ; compound leaves.
  • Viburnum ; simple leaves.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Opposite leaves with toothed margins.
  • Inflorescence flat-topped with many small flowers.
  • Bisexual, actinomorphic flowers.
  • Small and inconspicuous calyx.
  • Stamens adnate to corolla tube.
  • Stigma +/- sessile.
  • Fruit with distinct pyrene (s).
Key differences from similar families
  • Cornaceae: Some Cornaceae look similar to Viburnum, but the former often have 4-merous flowers; they lack stellateindumentum, and their lateralveins ascend towards the apex of the blade. (APG III, 2009).
  • Caprifoliaceae s.l.:Flowers bilaterally symmetrical; nectary made up of hairs on adaxial side of corolla (vs. radial in Adoxaceae) glandularnectary on top of ovary.
General Description
  • Native.
General notes
  • Also known as the Moschatel family.
  • Both genera widely cultivated for their fruits and ornamental value.
Notes on delimitation
  • Resolved within the Dipsacales (APG III, 2009).
  • Often separated into distinct monogeneric families (Viburnaceae and Sambucaceae) or within the larger Caprifoliaceae.
Number of genera
  • Sambucus and Viburnum
Important literature

Watson, L. and Dallwitz, M.J. (1992 onwards). The Families of Flowering Plants: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version 3rd March 2009.

Delprete, P. G. . 2004. (Caprifoliaceae) 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. Pp 83-85.

Brummitt, R. K. (Sambucaceae). 2007. In: V.H. Heywood, R.K. Brummitt, A. Culham and O. Seberg (eds). Flowering plant families of the world. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Pp 290-291

Brummitt, R. K. (Viburnaceae). 2007. In: V.H. Heywood, R.K. Brummitt, A. Culham and O. Seberg (eds). Flowering plant families of the world. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. P 331

Stevens, P. F. 2008. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9 onwards.

Mabberley, D. J. 2008. Mabberley's Plant-book. 3rd ed. p. 388. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Judd, W. S., Campbell, C. S., Kellogg, E. A., Stevens, P. F., Donoghue, M. J. 2008. Plant Systematics: a phylogenetic approach 3rd ed. Sinauer Associates, Massachusetts. P 476.

APG III. 2009. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. Vol 161: 3. Pp. 105-121.



  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Neotropikey

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