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Temporal range: Santonian - recent [1] [2]
Myrtus communis.jpg
Myrtus communis foliage and flowers
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Myrtaceae
Juss. [3]

About 130; see list

Pimenta dioica Pimenta dioica (Allspice) W IMG 2431.jpg
Pimenta dioica

Myrtaceae ( /mərˈtsiˌ,-sˌ/ ), the myrtle family, is a family of dicotyledonous plants placed within the order Myrtales. Myrtle, pōhutukawa, bay rum tree, clove, guava, acca (feijoa), allspice, and eucalyptus are some notable members of this group. All species are woody, contain essential oils, and have flower parts in multiples of four or five. The leaves are evergreen, alternate to mostly opposite, simple, and usually entire (i.e., without a toothed margin). The flowers have a base number of five petals, though in several genera, the petals are minute or absent. The stamens are usually very conspicuous, brightly coloured, and numerous.


Evolutionary history

Scientists hypothesize that the family Myrtaceae arose between 60 and 56 million years ago (Mya) during the Paleocene era. Pollen fossils have been sourced to the ancient supercontinent Gondwana. [4] The breakup of Gondwana during the Cretaceous period (145 to 66 Mya) geographically isolated disjunct taxa and allowed for rapid speciation; in particular, genera once considered members of the now-defunct Leptospermoideae alliance are now isolated within Oceania. [5] Generally, experts agree that vicariance is responsible for the differentiation of Myrtaceae taxa, except in the cases of Leptospermum species now located on New Zealand and New Caledonia, islands which may have been submerged at the time of late Eocene differentiation. [4]


Recent estimates suggest the Myrtaceae include about 5,950 species in about 132 genera. [6] [7] The family has a wide distribution in tropical and warm-temperate regions of the world, and is common in many of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Genera with capsular fruits such as Eucalyptus , Corymbia , Angophora , Leptospermum , and Melaleuca are absent from the Americas, apart from Metrosideros in Chile and Argentina. Genera with fleshy fruits have their greatest concentrations in eastern Australia and Malesia (the Australasian realm) and the Neotropics. Eucalyptus is a dominant, nearly ubiquitous genus in the more mesic parts of Australia and extends north sporadically to the Philippines. Eucalyptus regnans is the tallest flowering plant in the world. Other important Australian genera are Callistemon (bottlebrushes), Syzygium , and Melaleuca (paperbarks). Species of the genus Osbornia , native to Australasia, are mangroves. Eugenia , Myrcia , and Calyptranthes are among the larger genera in the neotropics.

Syzygium samarangense, with a cross-section of the fruit Wax apple.png
Syzygium samarangense , with a cross-section of the fruit

Historically, the Myrtaceae were divided into two subfamilies. Subfamily Myrtoideae (about 75 genera) was recognized as having fleshy fruits and opposite, entire leaves. Most genera in this subfamily have one of three easily recognized types of embryos. The genera of Myrtoideae can be very difficult to distinguish in the absence of mature fruits. Myrtoideae are found worldwide in subtropical and tropical regions, with centers of diversity in the Neotropics, northeastern Australia, and Malesia. In contrast, subfamily Leptospermoideae (about 80 genera) was recognized as having dry, dehiscent fruits (capsules) and leaves arranged spirally or alternate. The Leptospermoideae are found mostly in Australasia, with a centre of diversity in Australia. Many genera in Western Australia have greatly reduced leaves and flowers typical of more xeric habitats.


The division of the Myrtaceae into Leptospermoideae and Myrtoideae was challenged by a number of authors, including Johnson and Briggs (1984), who identified 14 tribes or clades within Myrtaceae, and found Myrtoideae to be polyphyletic. [8] Molecular studies by several groups of authors, as of 2008, have confirmed the baccate (fleshy) fruits evolved twice from capsular fruits and, as such, the two-subfamily classification does not accurately portray the phylogenetic history of the family. Thus, many workers are now using a recent analysis by Wilson et al. (2001) as a starting point for further analyses of the family. This study pronounced both Leptospermoideae and Myrtoideae invalid, but retained several smaller suballiances shown to be monophyletic through matK analysis. [9]

The genera Heteropyxis and Psiloxylon have been separated as separate families by many authors in the past as Heteropyxidaceae and Psiloxylaceae. [10] [8] However, Wilson et al. [9] included them in Myrtaceae. These two genera are presently believed to be the earliest arising and surviving lineages of Myrtaceae.

The most recent classification recognizes 17 tribes and two subfamilies, Myrtoideae and Psiloxyloideae, based on a phylogenetic analysis of plastid DNA. [11]

Many new species are being described annually from throughout the range of Myrtaceae. Likewise, new genera are being described nearly yearly.


Following Wilson (2011) [12]

Subfamily Psiloxyloideae

Subfamily Myrtoideae


127 genera are currently accepted: [13]


Myrtaceae is foraged by many stingless bees, especially by species such as Melipona bicolor which gather pollen from this plant family. Some Australian species such as Tetragonula hockingsi and T. carbonaria are also known to collect resin from the mature seed pods of Corymbia torelliana , resulting in mellitochory as the seeds get stuck onto the corbiculae of the bees and sometimes are successfully disposed of by colony members that remove them. But usually, they get stuck in the hives or near hive entrances instead, hence also making it a minor nuisance for some keepers as they can take up a lot of space. Fortunately, this is only known to occur in the eastern areas of Australia, but could occur in other neighbouring countries where some Corymbia species are native. [15]

Weevils in the tribe Cryptoplini mostly use Myrtaceae as hosts. Their larvae can develop in flower and fruit buds, or in galls (often galls already formed by other insects). [16]

Related Research Articles

Sterculiaceae was a family of flowering plant based on the genus Sterculia. Genera formerly included in Sterculiaceae are now placed in the family Malvaceae, in the subfamilies: Byttnerioideae, Dombeyoideae, Helicteroideae and Sterculioideae.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gnaphalieae</span> Tribe of flowering plants

The Gnaphalieae are a tribe of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. It is most closely related to the tribes Anthemideae, Astereae, and Calenduleae.

<i>Kunzea</i> Genus of flowering plants

Kunzea is a genus of plants in the family Myrtaceae and is endemic to Australasia. They are shrubs, sometimes small trees and usually have small, crowded, rather aromatic leaves. The flowers are similar to those of plants in the genus Leptospermum but differ in having stamens that are longer than the petals. Most kunzeas are endemic to Western Australia but a few occur in eastern Australia and a few are found in New Zealand. The taxonomy of the genus is not settled and is complicated by the existence of a number of hybrids.

<i>Beaufortia</i> (plant) Genus of flowering plants

Beaufortia is a genus of woody shrubs and small trees in the family Myrtaceae and is endemic to Southwest Australia. The genus Beaufortia is closely related to Melaleuca, Calothamnus, Regelia and several others, differing mainly in the way the anthers are attached to the stalks of the stamens, and in the way they open to release their pollen. Beaufortia anthers are attached at one end and open by splitting at the other.

<i>Thryptomene</i> Genus of flowering plants

Thryptomene is a genus of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae and is endemic to Australia. Plants in the genus Thryptomene are shrubs with small leaves arranged in opposite pairs and white or pink flowers. About forty-seven species of Thryptomene, occurring in all Australian states and the Northern Territory, have been formally described.

<i>Calothamnus</i> Genus of flowering plants

Calothamnus is a genus of shrubs in the family Myrtaceae and is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. The common names one-sided bottlebrush or claw flower are given to some species due to their having the flowers clustered on one side of the stem or because of the claw-like appearance of their flowers. Calothamnus species are generally medium to tall woody shrubs with crowded leaves. In most species the leaves are crowded and linear in shape, and the flowers are usually arranged in dense clusters. The petals are small and fall off the flower soon after it opens but the stamens are long, numerous and usually bright red.

<i>Hypocalymma</i> Genus of flowering plants

Hypocalymma is a genus of evergreen shrubs in the myrtle family Myrtaceae described as a genus in 1840. The entire genus is endemic to southern Western Australia.

<i>Scholtzia</i> Genus of flowering plants

Scholtzia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae, which are endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. The genus was first described by Schauer in 1843, who named it in honour of the physician Heinrich Scholtz. The type species is Scholtzia obovata.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chamelaucieae</span> Tribe of flowering plants

Chamelaucieae is a tribe of flowering plants within the family Myrtaceae, mostly from Australia, with a few species in New Caledonia and south-east Asia.

<i>Rinzia</i> Genus of flowering plants

Rinzia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae. The genus was first formally described in 1843 and reinstated and revised in 1986.

This is an alphabetical list of useful timber trees, indigenous and exotic, growing in the Gauteng area of South Africa. These trees range in size up to some 1.5m DBH, such as Cedrus deodara, the Himalayan Cedar. Hobbyists will seek out even small pieces of highly valued timber, such as Buxus macowanii, the South African counterpart of Buxus sempervirens, for turnery or the making of boxes and small items. Despite the wealth of useful woods available in Gauteng, most of the trees, felled or fallen, are dumped or cut into short lengths for fuel. Trees grown in urban or suburban environments are rarely pruned and are consequently often knotty. Timber frequently holds nails, wire and spikes, attesting to a variety of abuse during the lifetime of a tree, and requiring the use of a metal detector by the sawmiller. Garden cuttings and dead leaves are occasionally piled next to trees and burnt, leaving charred scars and inclusions.

<i>Malleostemon</i> Genus of flowering plants

Malleostemon is a genus of flowering plants in the myrtle family Myrtaceae, described as a genus in 1983, by John Green The entire genus is endemic to Western Australia.

  1. Malleostemon costatusRye & Trudgen
  2. Malleostemon decipiens(W.Fitzg.) Trudgen
  3. Malleostemon hursthousei(W.Fitzg.) J.W.Green
  4. Malleostemon microphyllusRye & Trudgen
  5. Malleostemon minilyaensisJ.W.Green
  6. Malleostemon nephroideusRye
  7. Malleostemon nerrenensisRye & Trudgen
  8. Malleostemon pedunculatusJ.W.Green
  9. Malleostemon peltiger(S.Moore) J.W.Green
  10. Malleostemon pustulatusRye
  11. Malleostemon roseus(E.Pritz.) J.W.Green
  12. Malleostemon tuberculatus(E.Pritz.) J.W.Green
  13. Malleostemon uniflorusRye
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Myrteae</span> Tribe of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae

Myrteae is the largest tribe in the plant family Myrtaceae. It includes most of the species of the family that have fleshy fruits.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eucalypteae</span> Tribe of flowering plants

Eucalypteae is a large tribe of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae; members of this tribe are known as eucalypts. In Australia the genera Angophora, Corymbia, and Eucalyptus are commonly known as gum trees, for the sticky substance that exudes from the trunk of some species. As of 2020, the tribe comprised around 860 species, all native to Southeast Asia and Oceania, with a main diversity center in Australia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zanthoxyloideae</span>

Zanthoxyloideae is a subfamily of the family Rutaceae.


  1. "Myrtales". Retrieved 2023-07-20.
  2. Biffin, Ed; Lucas, Eve J.; Craven, Lyn A.; Ribeiro da Costa, Itayguara; Harrington, Mark G.; Crisp, Michael D. (2010-05-11). "Evolution of exceptional species richness among lineages of fleshy-fruited Myrtaceae". Annals of Botany. 106 (1): 79–93. doi:10.1093/aob/mcq088. ISSN   1095-8290. PMC   2889796 . PMID   20462850.
  3. Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–121. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x .
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  6. Christenhusz, M. J. M.; Byng, J. W. (2016). "The number of known plants species in the world and its annual increase". Phytotaxa. Magnolia Press. 261 (3): 201–217. doi: 10.11646/phytotaxa.261.3.1 .
  7. Govaerts, R. et al. (12 additional authors). 2008. World Checklist of Myrtaceae. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. xv + 455 pp.
  8. 1 2 Johnson, L. A. S.; Briggs, B. G. (1984). "Myrtales and Myrtaceae-A Phylogenetic Analysis". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 71 (3): 700. doi:10.2307/2399159. ISSN   0026-6493. JSTOR   2399159.
  9. 1 2 Wilson, Peter G.; O'Brien, Marcelle M.; Gadek, Paul A.; Quinn, Christopher J. (2001). "Myrtaceae revisited: a reassessment of infrafamilial groups". American Journal of Botany . 88 (11): 2013–2025. doi: 10.2307/3558428 . JSTOR   3558428. PMID   21669634.
  10. Sytsma, Kenneth J. and Amy Litt. 2002. Tropical disjunctions in and among the Myrtaceae clade (Myrtaceae, Heteropyxidaceae, Psiloxylaceae, Vochysiaceae): Gondwanan vicariance or dispersal? (Abstract). Botany 2002 Conference, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, August 4–7, 2002.
  11. Wilson, P. G.; O'Brien, M. M.; Heslewood, M. M.; Quinn, C. J. (2005). "Relationships within Myrtaceae sensu lato based on a matK phylogeny". Plant Systematics and Evolution . 251 (1): 3–19. Bibcode:2005PSyEv.251....3W. doi:10.1007/s00606-004-0162-y. S2CID   23470845.
  12. Wilson, P. G. (2011) Myrtaceae. In The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Volume X. Sapindales, Cucurbitales, Myrtaceae, edited by K. Kubitzki, X:212–71. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2011.
  13. Myrtaceae Juss. Plants of the World Online . Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  14. Pigg, K. B.; Stockey, R. A.; Maxwell, S. L. (1993). ""Paleomyrtinaea", a new genus of permineralized myrtaceous fruits and seeds from the Eocene of British Columbia and Paleocene of North Dakota". Canadian Journal of Botany. 71 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1139/b93-001.
  15. Hilário, S.D.; Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L. (2009). "Pollen foraging in colonies of Melipona bicolor (Apidae, Meliponini): effects of season, colony size and queen number". Genetics and Molecular Research. 8 (2): 664–671. doi: 10.4238/vol8-2kerr029 . PMID   19554765.
  16. Jennings, Debbie; Oberprieler, Rolf (2018-07-23). "A Review of the Tribe Cryptoplini (Coleoptera: Curculioninae), with Revision of the Genus Menechirus Hartmann, 1901 and Description of a New Genus Associated with Macadamia". Diversity. 10 (3): 71. doi: 10.3390/d10030071 . ISSN   1424-2818.