Comprehensive Description


The following description refers to Adansonia only. Tree, with an extraordinary swollen trunk. Stipules present, deciduous. Leaves alternate, simple (in young trees) or digitate (in older trees). Flowers large and showy, pendulous, solitary in leaf axils, bisexual, actinomorphic. Pedicels with 2 bracteoles. Calyx deeply 5-lobed (in ours), often with an epicalyx. Petals 5, free. Stamens numerous, united into a tube below (in ours); anthers 1-thecous. Ovary superior, 5-10-locular (in ours). Fruit woody, indehiscent (in ours).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 3898
Specimens with Sequences: 4928
Specimens with Barcodes: 3522
Species: 862
Species With Barcodes: 776
Public Records: 1494
Public Species: 255
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The Malvaceae, or the mallows, are a family of flowering plants estimated to contain 243 genera with 4225+ species.[2] Well-known members of this family include okra, cotton, and cacao. The largest genera in terms of number of species include Hibiscus (300 species), Sterculia (250 species), Dombeya (250 species), Pavonia (200 species), and Sida (200 species).[3]

Taxonomy and nomenclature[edit]

The circumscription of the Malvaceae is very controversial. The traditional Malvaceae sensu stricto comprise a very homogeneous and cladistically monophyletic group. Another major circumscription, Malvaceae sensu lato, has been more recently defined on the basis that molecular techniques have shown the commonly recognised families Bombacaceae, Tiliaceae, and Sterculiaceae, which have always been considered closely allied to Malvaceae s.s., are not monophyletic groups. Thus, the Malvaceae can be expanded to include all of these families so as to compose a monophyletic group. Adopting this circumscription, the Malvaceae incorporate a much larger number of genera.

This article is based on the second circumscription, as presented by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.[2] The Malvaceae s.l. (hereafter simply "Malvaceae") comprise nine subfamilies. A tentative cladogram of the family is shown below. The diamond denotes a poorly supported branching (<80%).

Byttnerioideae: 26 genera, 650 species, pantropical, especially South America

Grewioideae: 25 genera, 770 species, pantropical

Sterculioideae: 12 genera, 430 species, pantropical

Tilioideae: three genera, 50 species, northern temperate regions and Central America

Dombeyoideae: about 20 genera, about 380 species, palaeotropical, especially Madagascar and Mascarenes

Brownlowioideae: eight genera, about 70 species, especially palaeotropical

Helicteroideae: eight to 12 genera, 10 to 90 species, tropical, especially Southeast Asia

Malvoideae: 78 genera, 1,670 species, temperate to tropical

Bombacoideae: 12 genera, 120 species, tropical, especially Africa and America

It is important to point out the relationships between these subfamilies are still either poorly supported or almost completely obscure, so the circumscription of the family may change dramatically as new studies are published.

If looking for information about the traditional Malvaceae s.s., we recommend referring to Malvoideae, the subfamily that approximately corresponds to that group.

The English common name 'mallow' (also applied to other members of Malvaceae) comes from Latin malva (also the source for the English word "mauve"). Malva itself was ultimately derived from the word for the plant in ancient Mediterranean languages.[4] Cognates of the word include Ancient Greek μαλάχη (malákhē) or μολόχη (molókhē), Modern Greek μολόχα (molóha), modern Arabic: ملوخية‎ (mulukhiyah) and modern Hebrew: מלוחיה‎ (molokhia).[4][5]


Alcea rosea is a common garden flower in Malvaceae

Most species are herbs or shrubs, but some are trees and lianas.

Leaves and stems[edit]

Stellate hairs on the underside of a dried leaf of Malva alcea

Leaves are generally alternate, often palmately lobed or compound and palmately veined. The margin may be entire, but when dentate, a vein ends at the tip of each tooth (malvoid teeth). Stipules are present. The stems contain mucous canals and often also mucous cavities. Hairs are common, and are most typically stellate.


The flowers are commonly borne in definite or indefinite axillary inflorescences, which are often reduced to a single flower, but may also be cauliflorous, oppositifolious, or terminal. They often bear supernumerary bracts. They can be unisexual or bisexual, and are generally actinomorphic, often associated with conspicuous bracts, forming an epicalyx. They generally have five valvate sepals, most frequently basally connate, with five imbricate petals. The stamens are five to numerous, and connate at least at their bases, but often forming a tube around the pistils. The pistils are composed of two to many connate carpels. The ovary is superior, with axial placentation, with capitate or lobed stigma. The flowers have nectaries made of many tightly packed glandular hairs, usually positioned on the sepals.


Durian fruits

The fruits are most often loculicidal capsules, schizocarps or nuts.


Self-pollination is often avoided by means of protandry. Most species are entomophilous (pollinated by insects).


A number of species are pests in agriculture, including Abutilon theophrasti and Modiola caroliniana, and others that are garden escapes. Cotton (four species of Gossypium), kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), cacao, kola nut, and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) are important agricultural crops. The fruit and leaves of baobabs are edible, as is the fruit of the durian.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III" (PDF). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  2. ^ a b "Angiosperm Phylogeny Website". Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Judd, W. S., C. S. Campbell, E. A. Kellogg, P. F. Stevens and M. J. Donoghue (2008). Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach (third ed.). ISBN 0878934073. 
  4. ^ a b Douglas Harper. "mallow". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ Khalid. "Molokheya: an Egyptian National Dish". THe Baheyeldin Dynasty. Retrieved September 10, 2011. 
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Bombacaceae were long recognised as a family of flowering plants or Angiospermae. The family name was based on the type genus Bombax. As is true for many botanical names, circumscription and status of the taxon has varied with taxonomic point of view, and currently the preference is to transfer most of the erstwhile family Bombacaceae to the subfamily Bombacoideae within the family Malvaceae in the order Malvales. The rest of the family were transferred to other taxa, notably the new family Durionaceae. Irrespective of current taxonomic status, many of the species originally included in the Bombacaceae are of considerable ecological, historical, horticultural, and economic importance, such as balsa, kapok, baobab and durian.

Current taxonomy[edit]

Recent phylogenetic research has shown that Bombacaceae as traditionally circumscribed (including tribe Durioneae) is not a monophyletic group. Furthermore, Bombacaceae is no longer recognized by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group I 1998, II 2003 and Kubitzki system 2003 at the rank of family, the bulk of the taxa in question being treated as subfamily Bombacoideae within family Malvaceae sensu lato. A close relationship between Bombacaceae and Malvaceae has long been recognized but until recently the families have been kept separate in most classification systems, and continue to be separated in many references, including the reference work in classification of flowering plants: Heywood et al. 2007 [1] and Takhtajan 2009,[2] but have been lumped together in Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.[3]

Heywood et al. [1] say "although closely related to Malvaceae, molecular data supports their separation. Only pollen and habit seem to provide a morphological basis for the separation." On the other hand they say: "One approach is to lump them [the families in the core Malvales, including Bombacaceae] all into a 'super' Malvaceae, recognizing them as subfamilies. The other, taken here, is to recognize each of these ten groups as families."

As circumscribed in its traditional sense, the family Bombacaceae includes around 30 genera (25 genera after Heywood et al. [1]) with about 250 species of tropical trees, some of considerable girth, so called "bottle trees". Many species grow to become large trees, with Ceiba pentandra the tallest, reaching a height to 70 m. Several of the genera are commercially important, producing timber, edible fruit or useful fibres. The family is noted for some of the softest hardwoods commercially traded, especially balsa, Ochroma lagopus. The fruit of the durian, Durio zibethinus is famous, tasting better than it smells. At one time the fibre from the kapok tree, Ceiba pentandra was used in making lifebuoys. The baobabs or "bottle trees" (Adansonia spp.) are important icons in certain parts of Africa, Australia and Madagascar, noted for their immensely stout trunk development, a mechanism for enhancing water storage.


Genera of tribe Durioneae excluded from Bombacaceae after Heywood et al. 2007 and that should be included in Durionaceae [1]
Genus that should be excluded from Bombacaceae after Heywood et al. 2007 and that be included in Malvaceae s. s.[1]
Genera considered synonym after Kubitzki 2003 [4]
Genus not treated in Kubitzki [4]
  • Lahia Hassk., synonym of Durio, according to Mabberley [6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Heywood, V. H., Brummitt, R. K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. (2007). Flowering Plant Families of the World. Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books. ISBN 1-55407-206-9. 
  2. ^ Takhtajan, Armen (2009). Flowering Plants (Second edition ed.). Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9609-9. ISBN 978-1-4020-9608-2. 
  3. ^ "Angiosperm Phylogeny Website - Malvales". Missouri Botanical Garden. 
  4. ^ a b c d Kubitzki, K. & Bayer, C., (2003).The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants Vol. 5: Malvales, Capparales and Non-betalain Caryophyllales
  5. ^ Baum, D. A., DeWitt Smith, S., Yen, A., Alverson, W. S., Nyffeler, R., Whitlock, B. A. & Oldham, R. A. (2004). American Journal of Botany 91(11):1863-1871.
  6. ^ Mabberley, D.J. (1997). The plant-book (2nd edition ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41421-0. 
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