Malpighiales: an introduction




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MALPIGHIALES: AN INTRODUCTION

Petra Hoffmann

Malpighiales Mart. is a plant order containing 28 to 37 families (depending on the taxonomic concept adopted), c. 725 genera, and 16,000 to 17,000 species. Ranked by approximate species number, the six largest families are Euphorbiaceae J.F. Gmel. sensu stricto (6300 spp.), Phyllanthaceae Martynov (2000 spp.), Clusiaceae Lindl. (1000 – 1500 spp.), Malpighiaceae Durande (1250 spp.), Salicaceae Mirb. sensu lato (>1000 spp.) and Violaceae (800 – 900 spp.). See the table below for a full list of Malpighiales families.

Malpighiales are mainly tropical, but some genera such as Euphorbia (spurge), Hypericum (St. John's wort), Linum (flax), Salix (willow) and Viola (violet) are well-known in northern temperate regions. The order contains one of the major starch-crops worldwide (cassava in Euphorbiaceae) and a number of tropical fruit crops such as passion fruit (Passifloraceae) and mangosteen (Clusiaceae). The rubber tree (Euphorbiacae) played an important role in the industrial revolution.

Cultivated ornamental plants include the climbing passion flowers (Passifloraceae), St. John's wort (Hypericaceae or Clusiaceae-Hypericoideae), poinsettias (Euphorbiaceae), and violets and pansies (Violaceae). Willows (Salicaceae) are used as a raw material for basket makers and hide tanners, in environmental forestry (erosion control and land reclamation), and are being explored as an alternative energy source. Linum usitatissimum L. (common flax) is an important fibre and oil plant.

The order Malpighiales is also notable for the high concentration of plants containing medicinally active compounds, drugs and poisons. Outstanding examples are Erythroxylum coca Lam. (Erythroxylaceae) yielding cocain, the castor oil plant Ricinus communis L. (Euphorbiaceae), Ryania (Salicaceae sensu lato), Hydnocarpus (Achariaceae sensu lato, traditionally used in the treatment of leprosy), and the St. John's wort, Hypericum perforatum L. (Hypericaceae or Clusiaceae-Hypericoideae). Salicin extracted from willow bark is the origin of the pain and fever relief today synthesised as aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).



Family

Genera/ Species

Previous Taxonomic Placement(s)

Distribution

Achariaceae

30/145

Violales

Pantropical

Balanopaceae

1/9

Balanopales, Fagales, Buxales, etc.

New Caledonia, Queensland, SW Pacific

Bonnetiaceae

3 – 4/c. 35

Theales, Guttiferales

Neotropical, 1 genus in Malesia

Caryocaraceae

2/c. 25

Theales

Tropical America, esp. Amazonia

Centroplacaceae

1/1

Euphorbiales

West-Central Africa

Chrysobalanaceae

17/c. 450

Rosales

Pantropical, esp. America

Clusiaceae

c. 30/1000 – 1500

Theales, Guttiferales

Worldwide

Ctenolophonaceae

1/3

Linales

W Africa, Malesia

Dichapetalaceae

3/160 – 200

Euphorbiales, Celastrales

Pantropical, few in Malesia

Elatinaceae

2/34

Theales, Guttiferales

Worldwide, mostly tropical

Erythroxylaceae

4/c. 250

Linales, (Geraniales)

Pantropical, esp. America

Euphorbiaceae

220/c. 6300

Euphorbiales

Pantropical, extending into temperate regions

Euphroniaceae

1/3

Polygalales

Northern tropical S America (Guyana Shield)

Goupiaceae

1/1 – 3

Celastrales

NE South America

Humiriaceae

8/50

Linales, Geraniales

Tropical America, W Africa

Hypericaceae

9/c. 470

Theales, Guttiferales

Worldwide

Irvingiaceae

3/c. 10

Sapindales, Rutales

Palaeotropical

Ixonanthaceae

4 – 5/ 20 – 30

Linales

Pantropical

Lacistemataceae

2/c. 15

Violales

Neotropical

Linaceae

10 – 15/150 – 300

Linales

Worldwide

Lophopyxidaceae

1/1 – 2

Celastrales

Malesia and W Pacific

Malesherbiaceae

1 – 2/27

Violales

Andean S America

Malpighiaceae

c. 65/c. 1250

Polygalales

Pantropical, esp. America

Medusagynaceae

1/1

Theales

Seychelles

Ochnaceae

28 – 35/370 – 600

Theales

Tropical, esp. Brazil

Pandaceae

3/c. 15

Euphorbiales

Palaeotropical

Passifloraceae

17 – 18/c. 550

Violales

Tropics to warm temperate, esp. Africa and America

Phyllanthaceae

59/c. 2000

Euphorbiales

Pantropical, esp. Malesia

Picrodendraceae

27/c. 80

Euphorbiales

Tropical, mainly southern hemisphere

Podostemaceae

47 – 48/130 – 280

Podostemales

Tropical, esp. America

Putranjivaceae

2/c. 200

Euphorbiales

Palaeotropical

Quiinaceae

4/c. 50

Theales

Tropical America

Rafflesiaceae

3/20

Rafflesiales

South East Asia

Rhizophoraceae

15 – 16/120 – 150

Rhizophorales

Pantropical

Salicaceae

55/1010

Salicales

Pantropical, also northern temperate to arctic

Trigoniaceae

3 – 5/c. 30

Polygalales

Tropical America, Madagascar, W Malesia

Turneraceae

10/110 – 120

Violales

Tropical to warm America, and Africa to Rodriguez I.

Violaceae

c. 20/800 – 900

Violales

Worldwide

Data compiled from various sources including Mabberley (1997), Stevens (2001), Watson & Dallwitz (1992).

[all families in table should be linked to their respective place in the document]
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